Despite watching their season end with a whimper, optimism surrounding the Sale Sharks and the future of North West rugby in England has never been higher.
Sale, who saw their season end after their final fixture of the season against Worcester Warriors was cancelled following a whopping 27 positive coronavirus tests, made significant progress this season and will have hopes to make a push for their first playoff berth in 14 years next season
In the 2019-20 campaign the Sharks finished fifth in the Gallagher Premiership, their highest finish since 2008-09 when the Eccles based team finished 5th. Steve Diamond has done a superb job transforming a relegation threatened side to a possible playoff contender, large success can be attributed to the recruitment.
Sale Sharks and strong recruitment team putting the pieces together
Over the past number of years the Sharks have signed Marland Yarde, Jean-Luc Du Preez, Jono Ross, Faf De Klerk, Manu Tuilagi and recruited ex rugby league star Denny Solomona. Although the club spent heavily to bring those players in they have had great success promoting from within.
Josh Beaumont, Ben Curry, Luke James, Sam James and even current England international Tom Curry were promoted from within the ranks. The club’s success with signings and player development gave Diamond the recipe for success.
The club also managed to acquire England international Mark Wilson on a one year loan from the Newcastle Falcons to bolster their backrow, the pieces were finally there for the club to make a run
Finally after finishing in the mid table for the past couple of years, the Eccles based team made the next step, spending the majority of the season in the top four until the coronavirus pandemic hit. The Sharks produced an inconsistent end to the season as their top four dreams died.
A superb start to the season
Despite the 2019 Rugby World Cup delaying the start of the season, it had little effect on the Sharks as the club came out of the blocks firing on all cylinders. The Eccles based club won nine games, including a 20-22 away victory at Champions Cup winners Exeter Chiefs before the shutdown in March.
A season that started promisingly finished with a tame ending as the club registered five wins and four losses to close out the season.
Regardless, the club’s displays this year still represents significant improvement for the Sharks, who have finished outside the top six and Champions Cup qualification spots for the past three seasons.
Improvement all around
The Sharks bettered their win total from the 2018-19 season, registering 13 wins in 2019-20, largely due to their significant improvement defensively.
Sale’s improved defence conceded just 38 tries all season in 19-20, a figure that ranked for the fewest in the league. This was a drastic improvement from 2018-19 when they shipped 62 scores.
In addition, the Eccles based club were more effective in attack too, and were among the league leaders in all major categories.
The Sharks scored 69 tries, the fourth most in the 2019-20 Gallagher Premiership regular season. In total Sale scored 546 points last season, a sizable improvement from the 462 in 2018-19.
Sale are the only rugby union team based in the North West in top flight English rugby and after a difficult decade their star is trending upwards, and after a disappointing end to the year they should be more motivated than ever to return to the playoffs next season.