24 hours after the announcement that his co-winner of Sale's 2015-16 Young Player of the Season award, Cameron Neild, had penned a new four-year-deal, Sam James did likewise, joining the flanker in committing his future to Sale Sharks until 2020.
Like Neild, James, 22, enjoyed a breakout season last year notching seven tries and six try assists in 24 appearances including a couple of magical individual efforts that brought the entire league to attention. His fine season continued into the summer when he was deservedly rewarded with a place on the England Saxons tour to South Africa.
What makes James such a special player? Well...
As evident above, James is a bona fide playmaker and instantly became an integral part of the Sale backline last season serving as a second creative option outside of Danny Cipriani. James is a five tool player; great hands, on-field awareness, the ability to kick tactically, a nice turn of pace, and at 6ft 5' is an imposing physical presence to contain in the outside centre channel. The try embedded below is a perfect example of the dual threat James offers against a scrambling cover defence.
It will come as no surprise then that the news of James' re-signing has been lauded universally (as with the other pre-season extensions) but one thing to note is that James had actually already signed a (two-year) contract extension earlier this season.
The unprecedented turnaround between extensions therefore suggests that James - as with Beaumont, Haley, Neild et al. - has been earmarked as an integral foundation of the club for the immediate future and with additional financial security now assured, Diamond has moved quickly to double the length of James' commitment to the club.
The club's aggressive pursuit of an extension with James, and the player's ardor in agreeing to commit an additional two seasons might be the clearest indicator yet that Sale have something very special brewing in Manchester.
With Danny Cipriani now plying his trade in Coventry, the impending season should see further importance placed on James' playmaking abilities, especially since a move to inside centre is a possibility should Will Addison slide across to 13. Another strong season, regardless of position, could very well see James earn a spot with the England Elite Squad, such is his potential.
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