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Billy Twelvetrees: 'Ed started pre-season with us and and nine months on he’s really struggling. Jesus Christ.'

The former England and Lions centre, leaves Kingsholm a legend after over a decade's service, and in that time he has matured into a man

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Swimming on a rising tide - Sale Sharks Women's strong start to the season

By Matt Merritt
27th November 2022 Premier15s Warriors Women v Sale Sharks, Sixways. Photo Credit: Neil Kennedy

After two campaigns where the team has been defined by not being last in the league, 2022-23 appears to be the season of the Shark. Last season Sale finished on 14 points with just two wins under their belts – both against DMP – while this year after four games they already have 13 points and a hat-trick of wins.


“It’s taken us by surprise a little bit,” Georgie Perris-Redding told me when we caught up on the back of their third consecutive win. They might have expected a win in game one as they faced off against their fellow sharks, DMP at home but Perris-Redding remains unassuming. “It was a tough game to start the season with. DMP have a good fight, they’re a tough team to play and very physical. We didn’t play as well as we wanted to, but we came away with the points. That gave us a bit of a shake before we played Worcester, away from home.”

That trip to Worcester took on greater significance on the back of University of Worcester Warriors Women’s own first round victory, a surprise one over Harlequins at The Stoop. In fact, at half-time the match looked like one way traffic with Warriors dominating. “Those who have followed Sale Sharks over the past couple of seasons will know, if we’re heading into the changing rooms at half time 14 points down, it’s been tough for us to come back from. It shows the character and belief of the girls here, that change of mindset. We’ve never beaten Worcester away, so it was a huge win!”

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A week later, back at home in the North West, Loughborough Lightning came to town. “We’d never beaten Loughborough in the Premier 15s. They’ve got an outstanding team, lots of internationals, plus their Scottish World Cup players were back. That winning margin by a point meant so much to us.”

Winning by a point is, of course, still a win and one that Sale Sharks rightly celebrated, but Perris-Redding quickly moves to point her praise at others. “There were so many big performances in that win and full credit to Tails (Head Coach Rachel Taylor), she has been amazing.”

It’s a sign of Perris-Redding’s selflessness that when I point out her own score (which was voted try of the week), she remains equal parts proud and embarrassed to have the spotlight shone directly on her, so we move swiftly on…

‘Tails’- to those of us who don’t know her so well – has been a huge hit at Sale since she joined. “She’s been a big part of changing our culture and mindset. Sitting around the bottom of the table with a few good performances isn’t enough for us, we’re better than that. We’re here to represent the north and rugby in the North West especially. Not to be biased, but I think we’ve got one of the best front rows in the league. We’ve still got more to give and our start to the season has shown that.”


The team at Sale has been reinforced with a few extra internationals over the summer, Alycia Washington and Carly Waters moved north to join fellow US Eagle Katana Howard in a team that also has Scottish and Welsh internationals among its number. Most recently Perris-Redding herself has received international honours, heading to Rugby World Cup 2021 as part of the USA team.

“One thing that’s fantastic about Sale that people don’t see is that our Centre of Excellence is huge now. We have a lot of girls from across the North West developing and coming to full Premiership team training sessions on a Tuesday and Thursday. Tails and Leah Lyons are really pushing that, bringing that young talent through which is vital for the area and will pay off over the next ten years or so.”

I wonder, does it feel within the team like they have taken a real step forward? “Tails has drilled into us that it’s a process. We have to be realistic. We have Quins, Sarries and Exeter back-to-back. We can’t just assume momentum will carry us through. We want to keep players fresh and give players opportunities so there will be rotation in the squad. Change doesn’t happen overnight and although you might not see improvement on the outside, it will pay off come the end of the season.”


The Sharks joined the league at the same time as Exeter Chiefs women so there’s a natural urge to compare them and their approaches. Where Exeter imported a lot of key talent to push their team up the table early, Sale have largely built from within and are seeing it pay dividends with the likes of talented playmaker Lizzie Duffy earning England under 20s honours.

“Michelle and Simon [Orange – the owners of Sale Sharks] have significantly supported the women’s team. They’re from Manchester and want us to stay in Sale. A big part of what makes us who we are is northern grit and the Manchester identity. A lot of the girls who are here every night are local and that won’t change. Of course, to compete we have to bring in some international experience and ensure we have a high calibre of players but it’s important to do both and ensure that pays off.”

Despite qualifying to play for the United States, part of that local identity comes from Georgie herself, who is from Manchester, co-captain, and a die-hard supporter of the team. She’s a natural ambassador for all that is good about Sale Sharks and she’s passionate about the importance of the club being one unit. “If people come to Sale it’s very visible. We share facilities, the men’s team come and do coaching sessions with the girls and every Monday they talk to us about our results. It’s really one club, one big family.”

After we spoke for this interview, Sale made the trip south and your intrepid reporter witnessed the team’s winning streak broken by a resurgent Harlequins in a wintry West London.

However, it has been explained to me, rather than looking at the season as a whole, the club are focusing on blocks of games, so despite the loss, with the first block of matches over and 13 points in the bag, how do the team feel about the performance so far?

“It’s important not to forget the three wins we’ve had. Coming to the Stoop is always tough so we need to remember what we’ve achieved, put the scoreline to one side, but make sure we learn from all of these games as we head into the next one”.

It’s a good philosophy and one that will serve Perris-Redding and her teammates well over the course of the season ahead. One thing is for sure though, if Sale’s shining light is representative of her team, their passion, positivity and hard work – it is sure to pay off for them in what already seems like a significant season for the Sharks.


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RUGBYPASS+ Billy Twelvetrees: 'Ed started pre-season with us and and nine months on he’s really struggling. Jesus Christ.' Billy Twelvetrees: 'Ed started pre-season with us and and nine months on he’s really struggling. Jesus Christ.'