Sale boss Steve Diamond has hailed the RFU’s soon-to-be-published investigation into last month’s coronavirus outbreak at the Sharks which exonerates the club from misbehaviour. Instead, a false negative was central to the outbreak which ultimately affected 27 people at the club, and Diamond has now criticised Pat Lam, Ugo Monye and Alan Solomons for things they alleged about players partying following their Premiership Cup win.

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Sale’s hopes of reaching the semi-finals of the restarted 2019/20 Premiership season fell at the last hurdle, the club’s round 22 match against Worcester initially being postponed before getting cancelled, a decision that allowed fourth-place Bath to instead contest the knockout stages.  

Six weeks later, with the RFU report into their Sale investigation due to be published on Tuesday afternoon, Diamond has spoken for the first time since their season-ending cancellation, expressing his delight that his players were absolved of allegations that they had been partying in the wake of their September Premiership Cup final win over Harlequins which was alleged by critics to be the supposed reason for the mass outbreak.  

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A toast to Argentina after their win over the All Blacks

Speaking ahead of the report’s publication and next Friday’s new season opener for Sale at home to Northampton, Diamond said: “Quite rightly we were cleared by the RFU. The judgment isn’t out until this afternoon but that appears to be the decision. 

“I’m philosophical about it really. Obviously, we had a mass outbreak so they have got to have a look at it. I’m just a bit disappointed with rugby in general really over the event where Pat Lam, Ugo Moyne, Alan Solomons all jumped in on these false allegations that we were partying in the inner city and the student areas of Manchester, which was a real poor thing to say with no evidence and was factually incorrect.

“I’m disappointed with them. I thought rugby had a bit more about it. Maybe I’m one of them blokes who is too old school, that we believe these qualities are there, that you don’t do each other on the slightest thing, but obviously not. The world’s changed a little bit, so a bit disappointed about that. But delighted that the decisions that have come, that we have been exonerated. There are some issues no doubt in the report that will be advisory and will be advisories for all clubs.

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“I knew when I went on BT and said that none of our players had been out into Manchester, it just didn’t happen. I knew that was the case then. What we have done since is put it to bed. We have not really talked about it at work.

“We managed to get four weeks off which was the positive of it and we have trained for two weeks pretty hard. It’s one of those things, it’s a peculiar year and we move on. Hopefully we can get this season started on Friday and crack on. Hopefully some normality will return in the new year.”

Sale, whose squad were tested on Tuesday morning as part of Premiership Rugby’s weekly testing, are said by Diamond to currently be symptom-free ahead of Friday night’s 2020/21 kick-off. However, while the RFU investigation has now exonerated them of wrongdoing, Diamond isn’t waiting for his phone to ring with apologies from people who said untrue things about them. 

“To be fair, I don’t need apologies. My core values of rugby are like general life, that if you are going to jump on the back of something without any evidence you generally come unstuck. What I was able to do immediately, without ringing the squad up, was to make a candid honest decision on TV to say this never happened.

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We run an environment of a good time, good craic but there is people dying. We were in a position where we had won a cup final, we didn’t deny we had a couple of beers within the group. But when the aspersions are made that we were in the university grounds and in the inner city when there was a terrible outbreak in Manchester at that time, it was a classic, uneducated people putting two and two together and coming out with completely the wrong number and none of them, up until twenty-five to twelve today (at the time of his interview) have had the balls to say sorry we shouldn’t have said that. 

“That is down to them and I’m not going to fall out with them at all. It is how they choose to be but for me, we just get on with it. I have learned a lot through it. I have learned that rugby sort of prides itself some of the time and it is kidding itself that we’re all in it together and let’s stay strong. 

“As soon as people saw a chink, or what they thought was a chink in our armour, they attacked it for their own reasons and that was disappointing, whether it was notoriety on TV as a presenter or whether it was fellow directors of rugby who incidentally I have a good relationship with.”

Asked why there was such a pile-on regarding the alleged misconduct of Sale, Diamond added: “Maybe it’s over the last 20 years, maybe it was directed at me. Hey listen, people choose to do what they do when they are under pressure. What happened to us could have happened to anybody. It happened to Wasps to a lesser extent and it has recently happened to Leicester. What we did was we went through the regulations and we did not set the regulations. The regulations are set by the professional game board. 

“We went through those regs and in my opinion, running this place, we didn’t flout those regulations. That does not say there aren’t half a dozen, a dozen things that can’t be better. For example, we had four toilets in a toilet (block) and only one of them was masked out. It should have been two. Now I don’t think that is the heinous crime they were trying to find. 

“People came in with professors in white coats and the RFU head of discipline David Barnes, when they interviewed twelve of our players for half an hour each, let’s be honest, you can’t tell twelve people to say the same things. They answered honestly. 

“There are some recommendations that we openly say yeah you’re right, we can look better at that. We have also given them lots of food to think about. We have come out of a lockdown in spring which was a fantastic spring, March and April were cracking weather. We’re now in a lockdown in the poorest weather so it means people do gravitate inside the buildings and things like that. 

“There is a lot of learning gone on. We had another local authority investigation last week and they passed us with flying colours. The players are in an upbeat mood. We are slightly worried that they have not even mentioned when can we have a social because we are not even talking about that. We are talking about getting three, four games under our belt and we’ll have a craic somewhere if the regulations allow us to and if the lockdown is relaxed on December 2.” 

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