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View from the south stand: Sale 12 Northampton 32

Josh Charnley

By Cap'n Major Bloodnok
March 9 2017

When I was thinking about this opening paragraph prior to the game, the last thing I wanted to have to write was “following several encouraging wins, this match saw a return to Sale’s previous – losing – form”. Well…

I’m not going to rake over the epithets: woeful, clueless, turgid; there’s been enough of that in the forums over the past few days. The simple fact is, though, that this match shed a light on some matters of great concern.

Foremost among these is that it seems that Sale are currently a one-man team and, with that man out for the rest of the season, things do not look good for much progress over the next few weeks.

Will Addison’s injury has been a blow; not only because of his obvious talent on the pitch, but also because it was looking as if he should have been handed the captaincy back in the summer, rather than Beaumont.

I’ve got a lot of time for Josh, and I eagerly await his regaining the form of last season and getting few more of those bullocking runs going, gaining those important yards and sucking in defenders. But, on the evidence, he ain’t yet a captain, and he ain’t guaranteed a place in the team on form. Too diffident, not in the ref’s face enough, looking to swing his viewpoint our way in those close decisions. Will looked to have that, he talked to the ref, he talked to the players and he led by example.

AJ pulling out again (do we know why?) is also concerning. Here we have the great hope at 10, lauded pre-season as someone who was going to get the backline moving, and yet we’ve hardly seen him. Not entirely his fault, certainly: the unfortunate early injury lost us a lot of momentum in the half-back axis, as we tried different combinations. I also felt that he was brought back too early, obviously not fully healed, with a strapped up leg and eschewing kicking duties, it was more or less inevitable that he would suffer a recurrence and miss out on several more games.

And now, he’s been included on the bench for the last three home games and has pulled out twice at the last minute and was unused the other time. Is he as unfortunate as Addison in the injury stakes, or is there something else – something a bit more concerning – going on?

Sam James: made a big impact at outside centre last season, but is now competing with Addison in that position and has been asked to play the fly half role. He has not disgraced himself there, but I think it’s pretty obvious that, as a fly half, he’s a damn good centre. And not a kicker.

Charnley has finally got one monkey off his back with a well-taken try that needed some good poaching skills to pull off. But I still think he was introduced too soon, and that some time in the Jets first off, whilst he recovered from the Superleague season and got used to the new code would have reaped greater benefits. Had this been his first or second game, I think we may have seen a much more effective player than we currently have. I’m going to reserve judgement on him until next season, when he’s had a chance to rest and pick up a bit more of the nuance of union. I still have high hopes of him.

And so to the forwards: forwards win games, the backs decide by how many, so they say. It suggests that, if you’re losing a lot, then you should look to what’s wrong in the pack. For me, the thing that stands out is that we don’t have a talismanic forward; no Picamoles or Parisse, no Chabal, White, Lobbe…

This, of course, starts to look like complaining that we’re not a one-man team, and I suppose it is in a way, except that I want to see two or three players across the side who can fire everyone up, not just the one. It’s complex: on the one hand, you have Wasps and Sarries who can boast internationals who can’t get in the team. On the other hand, you have Exeter who have built up a strong side with minimal investment in “star” players. I get the impression that Sale may be trying to be an Exeter, but without understanding well enough exactly how Exeter have done it.

So, where do we go from here? I think we need a few good signings: a forward (Strauss might well be that), at least one back of international quality, and a head coach. Dimes should move upstairs and do what he does best: DoR stuff, recruitment and so on. Then we bring in a proven quality head coach to help gel the work of Forshaw and Deacon.

The team we have is not bad, just thin.

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