The RugbyPass 15 for 10 series continues with a look at the all-decade XV for Sale Sharks. This north-west England club has struggled to replicate the highs of the 2000s in this decade with their highest finish in the Gallagher Premiership being sixth, as Steve Diamond’s side have settled into consistent mid- and low-table finishes.
Player exoduses to the south have blighted Sharks’ decade, although they have had their fair share of players who have stuck around and attempted to push the club back into the upper echelons of the table. Check out our pick of their standouts below.
- Mike Haley
A two-horse race between Haley and Rob Miller, it was a contest that could have gone either way with both having added plenty to Sale during their time at the club. An extra season of service and the counter-attacking ability of Haley swung it for us, with the former Sale man now playing his rugby at Munster. He has since become a capped international with Ireland.
- Denny Solomona
Although not Eddie Jones’ cup of tea with England, Solomona has been one of the most consistent and important players for Sale over last three-and-a-half years. He has bagged 41 tries at a rate over a try every two games and when Sale opt to push the tempo and try to stretch teams, Solomona is one of the most deadly threats in the Premiership.
- Sam James
It’s tough to leave out Johnny Leota and Will Addison, both of whom made over 100 appearances apiece for the club, but the same level of activity also applies to versatile centre James. All have added their own unique stamp on the Sale backline, though it is perhaps James who has proven to be the most influential of the trio.
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- Sam Tuitupou
An honourable mention for James O’Connor, but Tuitupou was a steadfast force at inside centre for Sale for six years. The former All Black made over 100 appearances for Sharks during that time and provided a physical presence at second receiver that kept Sale moving forward.
- Mark Cueto
Over 300 appearances and almost 120 tries for the club, Cueto is the definition of a Sale legend. Five years of that time at Sharks came during the 2010s and although his career was beginning to wind down, he was still a clinical finisher on the outside and a devoted servant to the club he spent his entire career at.
- Danny Cipriani
In addition to the last season of Charlie Hodgson’s time at the club, Sale have also been able to call upon AJ MacGinty over the past decade, although the obvious call here is Cipriani. The Englishman resurrected his career in the north-west after a spell in Australia and a controversy-ridden first half of his career. Cipriani’s excellence for Sale earned him a move back to Wasps and a flirtation with the England 10 jersey.
- Faf de Klerk
Honourable mentions for Will Cliff and Dwayne Peel, though few would argue with the impact that de Klerk has had on Sale since his arrival from the Lions. The flowing blonde locks of de Klerk are frequently at the heart of Sale’s best attacking moments and his opportunism around the fringes and in defence create space for Sharks in a way few other players can match.
- Andrew Sheridan
Ross Harrison has Sheridan’s number here in terms of durability and length of service in this decade, though Sheridan was a force of nature. The Dulwich College product was one of the most destructive front row forwards in the world under the former engagement sequence at the scrum, where his power and strength was too much for many tightheads to deal with.
- Tommy Taylor
Hooker Taylor has been one of a number of players to make the move from Sale to Wasps after impressing in the north-west. Taylor looked for all money like an England international in the waiting during his time at Sale, although injuries and inconsistencies have since seen him surpassed by the likes of Jamie George and Luke Cowan-Dickie.
- Henry Thomas
Vadim Cobilas was impressive for the club while Brian Mujati also had a noteworthy spell at the AJ Bell Stadium, but it was Thomas – one of the club’s own academy products – who perhaps stood out most keenly. He ultimately swapped life in Manchester for Bath where, like Taylor, he has struggled with injuries, something which has derailed what looked like a blossoming international career.
- James Gaskell
Another Sale product to eventually move to Wasps, Gaskell was the youngest captain in the club’s history being given the responsibility at just 20 years of age. There were times at Sale when he looked as though he was on the verge of an England call-up thanks to his mobility and lineout ability, although Courtney Lawes and Joe Launchbury were initially preferred.
- Bryn Evans
Andrei Ostrikov is due an honourable mention for the longevity of his service at the club, while the decade also saw the end of Chris Jones’ time in the north-west and short stints for Richie Gray and Nathan Hines. Evans, however, gets the nod here as the former All Black was a consistent performer for the club at the set-piece and provided a platform for the team to launch attacks from.
- Tom Curry
Despite still being just 21 years of age, the England flanker wraps up this spot as Magnus Lund’s most significant contribution to the club came in the 2000s. Recently ranked eleventh in our Top 30 Players of 2019 list, the sky seems to be the limit for the talented back rower.
- David Seymour
Tom’s twin brother Ben comes close and should dominate the position in the 2020s, although it would be a disservice to overlook Seymour here. The former Saracen was pivotal to Sale over an eight-year stint with the club – seven years of which came in the 2010s – and his adept work at the breakdown was often the difference between victory and defeat.
- Josh Beaumont
A tough call. Jono Ross has enjoyed a very strong end to the decade in the north-west, but Beaumont’s best performances for the club arguably came at this position rather than in the second row. His powerful ball-carrying was extremely valuable for Sale in years gone by before the rise of the Curry twins, the signing of Ross and the arrival of the du Preez twins from South Africa.
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