Earlier this week on Twitter, I bemoaned the recent lack of noteworthy Sale-related news to write about especially with the Sharks having a rare week off from duty.
However I have been served a timely reminder to always be careful what you wish for.
On Friday night, esteemed Francophile journalist Gavin Mortimer tweeted out that according to French newspaper L'Equipe, Vadim Cobilas had agreed to a three-year-deal with the Top 14 side Union Bordeaux Begles (h/t to 'Tobys' on Twitter for initially pointing Gavin's tweet to me). Within minutes, a short statement was posted on Bordeaux's website confirming a deal was concluded, with Sale following suit early Saturday morning with a short post on social media:
I'll state the obvious: this is a huge loss for Sale.
Over the course of five seasons with the club since being plucked from obscurity from Russian side VVA-Podmoskovye, Vadim Cobilas became a well-established cult figure at Sale with fans chanting "VADEEEEEM" with every carry, tackle, or substitution; served as the cornerstone for a very strong and effecient pack in recent seasons; and became the first Moldovan rugby player to ever feature in the Aviva Premiership.
Following Henry Thomas' departure at the end of the 2013-14 season and the bust that was Alberto de Marchi's signing, Cobilas did what is now thought to be impossible in the modern game and played nearly every single minute at the Tighthead position for the entire season with only an uncapped 19-year-old as backup, yet remarkably saw little-to-no drop-off in his performances.
Last year I wrote that Cobilas could well be the Premiership's most underrated player due to the seismic influence he wields on Sale's scrum - which, of course, is the focal point of the club's gameplan each week - and his unbelievable durability and consistency.
And if his scrummaging performances weren't enough to gain him a cult following, Vadim also has the distinction of being probably the best goalkicking prop in the game today:
However all good things must eventually come to an end and Cobilas will now depart Manchester at the end of the season with well over 100 appearances in a Sale shirt to his name, for a very ambitious Bordeaux side who have began to put together an impressive squad capable of challenging for domestic and European honours.
The money, weather, and probably the rugby prospects, will be far superior in the South of France compared to England's North-West, and although losing a player of Cobilas' ability is a huge blow, you cannnot blame him for making the move to the Top 14, especially after all he has done for the Sharks since joining in 2011.
The question for Sale now though is: what next?
Cobilas will likely still play the heavy duty minutes between now and the end of the season with, I'd imagine, Brian Mujati gradually seeing extended minutes as the season progresses. Next year, Mujati will clearly be Sale's first choice Tighthead but what do the club do behind him?
Ciaran Parker made his first team debut last season, and is an England U20 international with extremely bright prospects. The decision Sale will soon have to make however is whether they are comfortable having a relatively untested Parker serving as Mujati's primary - and possibly even sole - backup should Mujati go down with injury.
Where the Sharks feel Parker is in his development will be critical in deciding how they approach the loss of Cobilas. Should they feel Parker isn't ready to make such a huge leap into regular Premiership duty, I wouldn't be surprised to see Sale sign an experienced prop to help ease the transition for the 20-year-old and give themselves another option for the front row.
Just please keep Ross Harrison at Loosehead.
The other aspect of this to consider - and knowing full well that money will not be the only factor in whatever decision is made - is do Sale use Cobilas' newly freed up wages to throw money at a certain Mr Taylor? I don't have salary details but if redistributing an extra portion of Cobilas' salary towards Tommy Taylor can keep the latter at the club and Sale just opt to have Parker, possibly Max Cobilas (?), or another Eastern European gem Diamond can unearth to cover Mujati, that would be a more acceptable response than losing both Taylor and Cobilas and having to sign both a new Hooker and Tighthead. We will see.
There is one silver lining to keep Sale fans cheery until some re-signings and new recruits are announced however. In hindsight, how much of a relief is it that James Johnston opted to join Wasps - who left Coventry this week for Worcester without playing a single game - instead of Sale? If you think Sale are in trouble now with Cobilas, it could have been so much worse.