Sale Sharks may have not made the biggest of Aviva Premiership Rugby transfer splashes over the summer, but skipper Dan Braid says their capture of Paul Deacon could well transform their back-line.
Sale were in the race for the top half until the very end of last season, combining an established and unforgiving pack with marked improvement in their attacking play.
Indeed the Sharks scored 62 tries in Aviva Premiership Rugby last season in contrast to 2013/14’s 46 – with Tom Arscott and Mike Haley in particular taking great strides last season.
And Braid insists the influence of Deacon, who enjoyed an illustrious rugby league career with Bradford Bulls before taking coaching roles with Wigan Warriors and England, has paid immediate dividends.
“It’s been a long pre-season which is good for the young guys to get fit, but when you’ve got sore joints like I have it can drag on a bit!” said flanker Braid.
“We’ve balanced out training hard with the time off and getting our game right. We’ve brought in Paul Deacon, a new attack coach, from rugby league and it’s been good having the extra time with him to learn little bits to the game he’s brought in – we’ve got to a good point with that.
“Mike Haley really came on last year, he’s a big guy and fast, and Tommy Arscott does score a lot of tries.
“It’s about getting the balance in our game right, we’ve had pretty good defence over the last couple of years and with what Paul Deacon’s bringing in we should be able to offer a bit more when we get the ball back.”
Sale will undoubtedly miss the influence of Michael Paterson after the lock made the switch to Northampton Saints but they’ve added two wily veterans to their pack.
Into the second row has come twice-capped All Black Bryn Evans and Brian Mujati, a former Saint and Springbok, adds some much-needed depth to Sale’s tight-head stocks.
“We’ve developed a good core of guys that have been together for a few years now and we’ve been consistently towards the top half,” added Braid, who will retire from playing at the end of the season to take up a coaching role at Sale.
“Last season we just missed out on getting to that seventh spot, but with one less win than we had the year before. We’ve got that consistency and that continuity, and we’ve reinforced that by getting Brian Mujati in.
“We’ve really only been playing with one specialist tight-head prop for a season which has cost us at set-piece a little bit, so we’ve filled that gap. I think we’re in a pretty good spot to have another charge at that top half of the competition.
“We’ve brought in Bryn Evans, who I played with at Blues in 2008, and he’s been great so far. He’s a big physical guy and mobile as well, he’s done a great job coming in and running the line-outs.
“He gets down to business, doesn’t muck about or waste words, and that’s what you need.”
The 2015-16 Aviva Premiership Rugby Season kicks off on 16 October. To see all of the fixtures click here.