By Cap'n Major Bloodnok
October 15 2016
Well, we have a three-week gap in home games and a two-week filing schedule for stories here, so I need to write some words to keep the sportnetwork gnomes happy...
Six games down in the Premiership — just over a quarter of the way through — and where are we? Well, seventh is the trivial answer but, with only 4 points between 10th and 5th, that doesn't say much.
We started the season in fairly typical Sale fashion by losing several key players to medium- to long-term injuries. Webber broke his arm, AJ tweaked a hamstring, Stringer got his jaw mashed and then snapped a tendon, TJ used his head as a battering ram... any more that I've forgotten? Add to that those already MIA before the start of the season, and our smallish squad was looking a bit stretched.
Losing to Newcastle was disappointing but hardly unexpected. Beating Quins was more satisfying, especially as one of the new players turned in a MoM performance. Then came Gloucester. Ugh. Not pretty (well, pretty dreadful) and something of a low point.
The draw at Worcester showed some grit in coming back from a bad position, but you have to question how they got into that position to have to pull themselves back from it. It seemed to fire them up, though, as they toughed out a brutal battle against Leicester to not only win but get the try bonus point as well. Then Bath away and... well, let's just draw a discreet veil over that, shall we?
In all that, we've seen Briggsy step to the mark and do a superb job at hooker, Cam Neild has carried on his form from last season and is proving to be an indispensable member of the squad. Josh is back and taking the captaincy seriously and well, if not quite to his full form at 8. Dan Mugford has shown himself not to be the makeweight that some may have felt early on. Paolo Odogwu has an impact like that of Nev last year. Time, maybe to hide him a little bit in case they figure him out too quickly? Speaking of Nev, not a shade on last year's model — figured out through early overuse? Or not enough use; no time to build extra tricks into the repertoire?
Bryn the Beard missed a lot of preseason and has been relatively subdued so far. Mooj missing for five games and then not really making a case for continued inclusion when he did appear. Fridge, Boris, Millsy and Bear all getting on with things; not spectacular but doing the job as they always do. Tight head a bit of an issue with no-one putting their hand up to be the new Vadeeeeem.
Addison simply has to be in the team somewhere — centre, wing, fullback, prop.
We. Miss. Cipriani.
There, I've said it. His style fits so well with Deacon's vision that losing him has made our (very talented) back division a bit duller than they were last year. Injury has meant that we can't really judge AJ as a replacement yet and Mugford is a different type of fly half.
So, onward to the European Cup. We are in a very tough group, so should Dimes not risk further injury to key players or go for broke? We're in it, let's take it seriously or we aren't going to progress, so why take the risk? Judging by the team for Scarlets, Dimes is not going to hide the players. Blood them, get all the experience they can and hope that injury doesn't impact on the Premiership campaign.