Ed. I am delighted to announce that friend of the site Matt Ferguson has undertaken the audacious task of compiling reports on the Sale academy members currently plying their trade outside of the first team. Below is the first of a five-part series that will run on the site each Friday.
SAM BEDLOW – CENTRE/FULLBACK – 21
Sam Bedlow is one of the more well-known Jets, having already played twice for Sale Sharks’ first XV, debuting in the 2014/15 season against Newcastle Falcons in the LV Cup. Bedlow is a very modern centre, pairing a big frame with good hands, and his solid defence and acceleration also allows to cover fullback. A top-level comparison would be the similarly versatile and powerful Jared Payne.
Bedlow spent the season on loan at Fylde, following some time there in the 2014/15 season and appeared 5 times in National One, all of them as starts, throughout April, mixing his time between centre and fullback. He also made 2 appearances for Sale Jets, coming off the bench against Gloucester United and starting at inside centre against Northampton Wanderers.
He played the full 80 minutes this season for Sale Sharks in the European Challenge Cup in a loss against Newport Gwent Dragons, starting at inside centre alongside Mark Jennings. He was up against Wales international Adam Warren on that day, and didn’t have the greatest game, failing to make consistent yards or line-breaks, and slipping 3 out of 9 attempted tackles as Sale went down 30-12.
For next season, I would expect Bedlow to be more involved with Sale’s first XV, hopefully having a similar impact to that of Sam James last season.
CONNOR DEVER – SCRUMHALF – 19
Connor Dever is a “French-style” scrumhalf, comfortable both with the boot and happy playing outside his favoured position. He was sent out on loan at Sale FC in the National League Two (North) this season, following good performances in the 2015 Premiership Sevens.
The Kirkham Grammar graduate made 20 appearances in Sale FC’s comeback season at this level, of which 11 were starts. A versatile scrumhalf, he nailed down a starting spot for Sale FC after some strong early performances off the bench at both 9 and 10. He managed a solitary try in a tight game against Chester after some excellent footwork, but was sadly absent from late February until the end of the season, presumably through injury. For Sale Jets, he played all 5 games, starting against Newcastle A and Northampton Wanderers, and coming off the bench against Gloucester United, Leicester A, and Worcester Cavaliers.
Next season I would expect Dever to be sent out on loan again, due to his age, although judging from Sale Sharks’ pre-season videos he appears to be the fourth choice scrumhalf behind Mike Phillips, Peter Stringer and James Mitchell, so he may well see game time in the LV Cup games or in case of an injury crisis at 9.
DIOGO FERREIRA – TIGHT-HEAD PROP – 19
Diogo Ferreira is a student at Durham University, entering his second year of study having come through the vaunted Myerscough College. He played 3 times for Sale Jets this season, coming off the bench against Gloucester United, Newcastle A, and Northampton Wanderers. He was also a member of the Portugal under 20 side who finished 7th in the second-tier 2015 World Rugby U20 Trophy, scoring in the 7th place playoff against Hong Kong.
As well as these academic and international pursuits, he was able to represent Sale FC in their end-of-season dead rubber against Luctonians, playing the full 80 minutes at tight-head prop in a heavy loss, on the other side of the scrum from Sale’s other young gun Jake Pope.
He looks fairly sharp for a prop, outpacing Sale Sharks’ other young props James Flynn and Jake Pope (more on him in a future post) in a video of a 10 metre race posted by the club on Twitter, and carrying noticeably less bulk than either. Next season he will likely continue to develop with Durham Uni, I would not expect him to appear in Sale Sharks’ first XV, given that he is currently fifth-choice behind Mujati, ‘Aulika, Longbottom and Parker in the propping stakes although further appearances for Sale FC or the Jets appear likely.
ANDY HUGHES – OPENSIDE FLANKER – 21
Andy Hughes has played the most first-team games of any of the current Jets, making 8 appearances for the Sharks since his debut way back in the 2013/14 season in a European Challenge Cup game against Biarritz. Having threatened to break into the first-team picture on a number of occasions, his lack of size has unfortunately meant that he has looked underpowered in the top-level games he has played so far.
Indeed, his sole appearance for Sale Sharks this last season was in the aforementioned drubbing away at Newport Gwent Dragons, where he started at openside flanker and failed to stand out in a poor team performance. He was dependable in the tackle, completing all 5 of his attempted tackles, but failed to make headway going forwards, making only 7 metres off 6 carries, with no line-breaks or defenders beaten.
However, Hughes has long been touted as a first-team player for Sale Sharks, representing England at the 2013 U-18 European Championships, and his performances for Sale Jets reflect this valuation. Tall for an openside, he often captains the side, starting all 5 of the Jets’ fixtures this season, moving between open- and blindside flanker. Having made a handful of appearances on loan at Fylde in the 2014/15 season, he was sent to Sale FC this season for their survival push. Hughes slotted in immediately as a key player, starting primarily at openside flanker and playing every minute of the 8 appearances he made.
Hughes is clearly too good for the National League Two (North) level, so it will be very interesting to see whether he is promoted to the first-team squad as backup for the Sharks’ aging opensides Magnus Lund and David Seymour, or whether he has another season gaining experience at a (hopefully) higher level in the RFU’s league structure.
Assuming that Cameron Neild and TJ Ioane are Sale’s blindside flankers, Seymour and Lund are the opensides, and Josh Beaumont and newcomer Laurence Pearce provide the number 8 depth, Hughes could reasonably be thought of as the third-choice flanker, covering both sides of the scrum, and should expect some game time with the first team this season, particularly in the LV Cup.
TIM JEFFERS – FULLBACK/WINGER – 21
Following in Andy Hughes’ footsteps, Jeffers played for the England under-18s, and is also a product of the Myerscough College pathway.
This season, the diminutive back-three has been on loan at Fylde, but only since February. Because of this shortened loan, he was only able to appear in 3 games for the Lancashire side, starting each game on the wing but failing to score. He was highly rated at Fylde, who were effusive in their praise of Jeffers in the press report which announced his dual registration. He appeared in all 5 of Sale Jets’ games this season, starting all 5 at fullback, which appears to be his preferred position.
Sale Sharks fans may remember Jeffers’ full debut, made this season in the game away at Newport Gwent Dragons. Jeffers was one of the few Sharks players who really looked comfortable at the top level, making a number of scything breaks from deep that showed off his raw pace and balance. He made mistakes, especially as the game fell away as a contest, but there was enough seen in his attacking play for Sharks fans to sit up and take notice. In that game he made 138 metres, 48 more than any other player, and beat 5 defenders (most of any player) while making 2 clean breaks (joint-most). Defensively he was less impressive, missing 2 of his 4 attempted tackles. Based on that performance, he seems a back-three in the Hallam Amos mould, with excellent physical skills going forwards, but needing a little bit of polish technically and tactically.
It is very hard to say where he slots in 2016/17, given Josh Charnley’s arrival later in the season and the uncertainty surrounding what role new signing Paolo Ogodwu will be given. I would, however, be very surprised if Jeffers failed to make any appearances for Sale’s first XV, and fully expect him to play a role in the LV Cup campaign, most likely at fullback but possibly on the wing or off the bench.
Next week, I will be taking a look the seasons had by Tom Morton, John O’Donnell, Liam Parfitt, Matt Postlethwaite, and England under-20s star George Nott.
N.B. all ages shown are the players’ ages on the 1st September 2016, normally the start of the Premiership season. All statistics are compiled from rugby.statbunker.com and the relevant organising bodies (ERC, PRL, etc). Also, the term “loan” is used where “dual-registration” may be more accurate, for the sake of brevity.
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