“At my age I know I have to put the work in during the off season,” says Josh Beaumont as he gets in the car to head to the gym. It’s just over a week since your Sharks fell agonisingly short in the Premiership final but despite having another five weeks off before the pre-season grind really begins, attention is already turning to next season and going one better.
A big part of the planning for the 2023/24 season has been retaining the players who made the past 12 months so memorable, and so it’s no surprise to see the popular 31-year-old handed a new one-year deal after a comeback season which saw him play 26 games as the club reached the Twickenham showpiece for the first time in 17 years.
But Josh, who has played more than 160 games for Sale since making his debut in a Heineken Cup clash with Montpellier in 2013, says that after a turbulent period with injuries, he’s not taking anything for granted.
“If I think back 18 months I really thought I might have signed my last contract with the club,” he said. “I tore my hamstring after coming back from a serious knee injury and I wasn’t sure whether I’d play again. I was really fighting to stay on.
“I wanted to get back playing and I had loads of support from Alex and the rest of the coaches. I told Alex I still felt like I could play an important role in the team and the squad, but I never imagined I’d play 26 games and we’d have such a successful season.
“I think the environment at the club now is so special – on and off the pitch – and that was a massive part in wanting to come back and get playing. If I’d have got those injuries eight years ago it might have been easier to either pack it in or move somewhere else.
“But we’re building something special here and I want to stay and be a big part of it. The squad we’ve got has so much potential but I’m also really passionate about growing the club and the game in the region. I’m a Lancashire lad so the Northern Rugby Matters campaign really means a lot.”
Josh was a second-half replacement as Alex’s men lost out to Saracens on a memorable day at Twickenham. And he says the pain of missing out on a title will provide plenty of motivation to go one step better next season.
“We were all gutted,” he said. “Especially because we were leading in the second half and felt like we were in control of the game at that point.
“But it was a completely new experience for loads of our young players and on reflection, it’s been a really successful season for the club, and we’ve got a lot to be excited about for the season ahead.
“The club has always been a great place for young players. It’s always felt like somewhere they could get opportunities and you only have to look at this season with guys like Joe Carpenter coming through to know that’s still happening now.
“We had a great squad when I broke through with guys like Gray and Cipriani, but it just feels different now. Alex has brought consistency and clarity to our game and he’s really brought everyone together. As a player you know that if you put in the work, you’ll get the backing and the rewards.
“He’s challenged me and at this stage of my career that’s what I need.
“Off the field, everyone at the club from the players to the coaches, the commercial and community staff and the owners, is pulling in the same direction.”