Samoan international Jonny Leota believes that his fellow Sale Sharks centre Mark Jennings has what it takes to go all the way in rugby
The advent of this weekend's opening LV= Cup clash with Wasps will hand a golden opportunity for some of Sale's next generation to prove they have what it takes to forge a top flight career.
And in the case of powerful young centre Mark Jennings, Samoan international and midfield partner Jonny Leota says the 20-year-old has already demonstrated he has all the ingredients to cut it at the highest level.
Ever since he came through the Academy ranks as a raw teenager, the feeling amongst Sale insiders was that the Lymm youngster was a special talent.
From playing and training alongside Jennings, Leota has seen first hand the power and panache that the player - who jokingly dubs himself as Sale's very own Mathieu Bastareaud in honour of the French midfield powerhouse - brings to the Sharks.
And having played in the bulk of Sale's games over the first two months of the season due to injury to Sam Tuitupou, Leota says Jennings has stepped up another gear this year.
"For me, the difference in Mark is really noticeable from last year to this year. I think he has stepped up big time," said Leota.
"With each game he's getting better and he's really solid now. He likes to call himself our Bastareaud, but he never shies away from the physical side of the game which, as a midfielder, is really important now.
"He's been really physical in the tackle and in his close contact defence.
"He's confident in himself too which I think is important.
"As a player you need game time to improve and he's been getting that this season. If Jenno keeps going the way he is, he's definitely got a great career ahead of him.
"Sam and I have talked about that over the past two years.
"So I definitely think he's got a bright future ahead of him."
Jennings is just one of several young Sale stars who Leota believes have promising careers ahead of them.
And in tandem with his fellow midfield wrecking ball Tuitupou, Leota is happy to act as a mentor and sounding board for all of Sale's ambitious young guns.
"As a player you want to help the younger guys improve and leave a positive impression on them which will hopefully last long after we're gone," Leota added.
"So if we can help the likes of Mark, Will Addison, Sam James and Mike Haley and all the other younger guys here improve then we'll have done our job.
"They ask us questions but we pick things up from them as well so it's a two-way thing.
"They bring the energy and we bring the experience!
"But being serious I think that the future of the club with those young guys around looks good.
"That group of young guys have been through it all over these past few years from the highs to the lows and that's only going to stand them in good stead going forward into the future."
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