Welcome back to the home of the reigning champions.
(Listen, we haven’t had much chance to say that since 2006 so let us have it okay?).
It is of course a return to Premiership Rugby Cup action today at the AJ Bell and after a gruelling but impressive few weeks in the Premiership itself, a great chance to rest, reset and allow a few more of our most exciting young players to throw their names into the hat for selection in the season run in. It’s also crucial for us to keep that momentum from the Premiership going over the break from league action and continue to create the positive feeling around the club that the last few weeks and results had generated.
Competition in the squad has been fierce this season as our academy graduates have pushed the senior players to the limits and in some cases made themselves close to the first name on the team sheet. Success stories like Tom Roebuck, Bevan Rodd and Arron Reed (to name just a few) have their early roots in professional rugby in this competition and are now established first team players. Not only that but they are scoring tries, snaffling turnovers and winning us games against the best in the country. It just shows how quickly the opportunity is to make the mark in the squad as the coaches and management will trust in youth. It also has a special sense of pride to see a Sale academy player go on to be such a key part of not only the club’s performances, but also on the international level.
With a hugely exciting academy generation coming through after them, today will therefore be nothing if not exciting as a Sale fan. We’ve seen glimpses of the likes of Conor Doherty, Rouban Birch and Jack Metcalf at the AJ Bell so far and the chance for these and other players to have an impact right from the start of the match is crucial for their development, the development of the club and will have a big impact on our mood as fans for Monday mornings for the next few years.
We won’t pretend to understand the format of this competition in depth but prevailing wisdom suggests two wins out of two, starting here against Wasps today, is the minimum requirement to push ourselves into a semi-final berth. Wasps are a side that are also bringing good talent through – Charlie Atkinson famously ran the show against Sale in the league last year, so it will be a good match up all over the pitch and one to savour.
It might even just be an “I was there” moment as we see some of the next generation of talent for the first time proper. At least it will be better than the last “I was there” moment against Wasps, when famously – they weren’t there.
(We’ll get over it one day, we promise).
Enjoy the game!
Alex, James and Lewis
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