Sale Sharks open their Gallagher Premiership account as they host Northampton Saints at the AJ Bell Stadium on Friday evening.
It will be their first game since the controversial and anti-climatic end to last season, where a major COVID-19 outbreak at the club made national news and prevented them from playing their final game of the season which could have seen them make it into the play-offs.
However, a new season is a fresh start and the disappointment that came with the end of the last campaign can be put behind them as there were more than a few positives to suggest that they can challenge for the Gallagher Premiership title this time out.
— Sale Sharks 🦈 (@SaleSharksRugby) November 16, 2020
For quite a lot of last season, Sale were second in the Gallagher Premiership, and whilst they fell off the pace at the end of the campaign, they still would have had a great chance of making the playoffs if it wasn’t for the COVID outbreak forcing them to forfeit their final game against lowly Worcester Warriors.
Sale also beat Harlequins in the Gallagher Premiership Cup final, with a convincing 27-19 victory to claim their first piece of silverware in the Steve Diamond era, with 2006 being the last time the club lifted a trophy.
As they look towards their opening game against a competitive side in Northampton, Sale will have to cope without some of their players due to the Autumn internationals.
Whilst it’s the same for the visitors, Sale will be without one of their star players in Tom Curry.
Although, the positive for Sporting Director Steve Diamond is that Sale have all their South African players available for selection due to South Africa not participating in the Autumn international friendlies.
Therefore, key players like Faf De Klerk, Lood De Jager, Anker Van Der Merwe and the De Preez brothers are all available, meaning that Sale is actually in a better position than some clubs.
It’s a make or break season for Sale though, as they need to perform better in the Heineken Cup (after getting knocked out in the group stages last season) and there will be an expectation on Diamond to steer Sale to the Premiership playoffs at the very minimum when you consider the amount of quality in their ranks.
The Sharks are currently odds on to make the playoffs and second favorites, behind Exeter Chiefs, to win the Gallagher Premiership title, meaning that the pressure really is on for the first time in Diamond’s reign.
A win against Northampton may not ease that pressure but it will get Sale Sharks off to the start that they desperately need in a season where consistency will be the key to success.