Yesterday Sale Sharks’ Director of Rugby Steve Diamond confirmed the signing of Chris Ashton from Toulon, completing arguably the tastiest backline in the tournament.
For Diamond keeping the back three ‘exciting’ is clearly high on his list of priorities. “When we were looking around, following the announcement of the return of Rohan Janse van Rensburg, we wanted to keep the make-up of our Back Three as exciting as we can,” stated the DoR upon the confirmation of Ashton’s signing.
It can be safely be said that Diamond has his achieved his objective.
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9 Faf de Klerk
The terrier-like number nine was arguably the best in his position in his inaugural year in the Premiership, and he only went and backed it up against England in South Africa this June. Incredible skill, heart and toughness.
10 AJ MacGinty
No longer flying under rugby’s radar, US Eagle AJ MacGinty is officially the most accurate goal-kicker Premiership Rugby has ever had, with a kick percentage in excess of 85 per cent. A veritable points scoring machine who is very capable with ball-in-hand.
Yarde may have left Harlequins under a cloud but has come out the other side at Sale Sharks. While he may still have question marks over his temperament, the same can not be said of his talent and try scoring ability.
12 Rohan Van Rensburg
Sharks confirmed the long-term signing of Rohan Janse Van Rensburg from the Emirates Lions on a three-year deal, and he’s clearly the new cornerstone of the backline. At 6’1 and `108kg, the Springbok is a big physical presence in both defence and attack.
13 James O’Connor
While O’Connor is more often found in the back three or at 10, he has played 13 for the Wallabies and the Western Force. Injury put paid to his last Sharks season but 2018/19 could be the year he genuinely proves himself in the cold climes of the Premiership.
14 Denny Solomona
Solomona’s move back to Union after spending his early professional career in League couldn’t have been too much smoother, on the pitch at least. He has solidified his grip on an England squad spot and will be looking to make his case for a starting berth again this season.
15 Chris Ashton
Has shown at Toulon that he can play regularly at fullback and score tries – albeit off the incredible carrying of Tuisova and Radradra. Whether he will have quite the plethora of assists to feed off at Sale is another question, but regardless the man is in the form of his life and has a potential spot in England’s World Cup team as motivation.
South African born Byron McGuigan has been excellent for Sale Sharks and for Scotland, while Sam James has been more than competent while playing at outside centre for much of the season. Young Paulo Odogwu has arguably the most explosive feet in the Premiership and veteran Jonny Leota – who struggled with injury last season – will be looking to break back into a backline the Samoan has been a mainstay in for years.
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