Every position in the Sharks team is hotly-contested, but none more so than at hooker, where Alex is blessed with four internationals to pick from. The longest-serving Shark among the quartet is Curtis Langdon and after eye-catching cameos off the bench in recent games, the 24-year-old is back in possession of the number two shirt today, and ready to make his case to keep hold of it.
He said: “This squad is full of quality so everyone knows they have to be at their very best every single week to get selected. The hookers are no different. There are four of us and it’s so competitive because all four of us are capable of playing at a high level.
“We have all had injuries at different times and that’s given us all chances. At the start of the season Alex was rotating all four of us a fair bit too, but I think now he wants some consistency so it’s up to us to prove that we deserve the place. I want this shirt and I want to play as much as possible in the remaining games of the season.”
Last season was a breakthrough season for Curtis, with a play-off appearance for Sharks followed by an England call-up for the summer games against Canada and the USA.
The plan was to kick on and cement a place in Alex’s team for the new Premiership season but injuries and fierce competition for places meant that was less than straightforward.
He said: “I had three weeks away with England and I was really excited to get back to Sale and get going but with four hookers I knew that I wouldn’t be playing every single week.
“I’m not going to lie, it has been frustrating at times but the challenge is always to keep working and be ready to take the chances when they come. It can be tough but you can’t spend too long being upset. We all have a job to do, to help the team prepare for the next fixture.
And when I have come on as a replacement I’ve tried to make as big an impact as possible and show that I’m ready.”
An inconsistent first half to the season has been followed by three big wins in consecutive weeks against Ospreys, Leicester Tigers and Harlequins.
And now Curtis is targeting a strong second half and a push towards the top four spots.
He said: “We’ve got loads of lads coming back from injury and the mood in the camp is really good. We have been talking a lot about how many times we’ve started well but then fallen away and I think the Quins game was our first full, 80-minute performance.
“Worcester beat us earlier in the season and we know that on that day we were nowhere near good enough. We don’t need any extra motivation but if we did, that game is there.
“We know Dimes will have them ready and we know what kind of team we’re going to be facing. He’s going to make sure they’re physical and up for the fight so we have to be too. We need to start strongly and then have an even better finish.”
After getting a taste of international rugby in the summer, Curtis is desperate to get back in Eddie Jones’ thoughts.
He added: “We know that with the quality we’ve got in the squad we can put a big winning run together and make this a season to remember.
“Getting back in the England squad is a massive target for me, but I know that only happens if I’m in the Sale team week in, week out. Today is just the start.”