UKFast’s long-standing relationship and sponsorship of Sale Sharks will be no surprise to rugby union fans. We’re welcoming Sale Sharks guru John in for a guest blog to talk about how the next generation of Sharks is shaping up.
High-profile signings may make the headlines – just look at the Lukaku/ Rooney saga between Everton and Manchester United last week – but North West Rugby Union giants Sale Sharks have not been idle themselves.
New faces at the AJ Bell Stadium for the coming campaign include seasoned internationals Francois ’Faf’ de Klerk (South Africa), James O’Connor (Australia) and Josh ‘The Beard’ Strauss (Scotland). They arrive hot on the heels of wing scorcher Denny Solomona, whose blistering pace for the matchwinning try on his England debut in San Juan last June broke the Pumas’ hearts.
But behind those stellar names, a quiet revolution has been taking place, with home-grown young talent secured on lengthy contracts. This healthy situation was borne out by an independent survey published by Alex Shaw Sports, which revealed that the club is in a foremost position in a ‘table’ of clubs whose Academy graduates are qualified for Premiership duty. Sale Sharks, on 24, stand in second spot, six behind European champions Saracens. The Academy Player Review states that the percentage of their entire senior squad which is ‘homegrown’ places them third in the country with 37.1%.
The work in the Sale Sharks Academy, currently headed by manager Brendan Thomas and consultant Ray Unsworth, is impressive. The emergence of the Curry twins and George Nott last season followed the progress made by Mike Haley, Sam James, Will Addison, Mark Jennings, Josh Beaumont, Ross Harrison and Cameron Neild, to name just seven young first team regulars from the North West.
There’s more to follow, with Arron Read, Kieran Wilkinson, Sam Moore and Cameron Redpath all selected for England’s forthcoming Under-18 tour of South Africa. Their time at a senior level will surely come in a couple of years’ time.
Sale Sharks’ Academy Manager Brendan Thomas said, “It’s fantastic – great to see facts and figures verifying the hard work done at Academy level. Actually, our understanding is that the 37.1 percentage is close to 54. The club’s vision is for that figure to rise to 75 by 2020.
“The Academy has the wholehearted support of the club’s owners, board and Dimes. Fran Cotton, in particular, is passionate about our role in establishing the standing of Sale Sharks, not only in North West England but far beyond.”