Johnny Leota wasted no time in reintroducing himself to Sale Sharks after scoring the bonus-point try in the victory over Worcester Warriors and the Samoa centre says the team has moved on for the better over the summer.
Leota crowned a superb night for Sale last Friday – in his first appearance since returning from the Rugby World Cup – after burrowing over at the death.
It was quite a way to expunge the memories of Round One’s heavy defeat to Saracens, though a Sale win at the AJ Bell Stadium is usually a good bet.
And Leota, who has spent the last four seasons with the Sharks, says the improvement between this year and last is clear to see already.
“For me it was just good to be back among the boys,” he said. “While I was away with Samoa we’d heard of a lot of good work during the pre-season and I was excited about the news the boys had passed onto us.
“That last try, it’s just one of those things when you see the white line. Usually when you see the forwards pick and go you’re never going to get the ball in the back line so I looked for it and there was an opportunity.
“I think our communication between our backs and our forwards is better this year, our forwards are running good lines and our backs are giving them communications.
“If we do that throughout the whole 80, and everyone knows their job, it makes it so much easier and we wouldn’t have that fall off.
“I think we’re a lot more confident in what we’re doing this year and you saw that on Friday, when we played throughout the whole game.”
For Sale to improve on last season’s effort they must top seventh place and 11 wins, though maintaining that position is only set to get harder in Aviva Premiership Rugby after the league’s recruitment drive this summer.
Sharks have brought in experienced heads such as Brian Mujati and Bryn Evans though 21-year-old Sam James was handed his first start for the club in place of Leota against Saracens.
And Leota welcomes any increased competition in Sale’s midfield.
“For me it’s week in week out,” Leota added. “If the coaches want to use me for a different game plan I’m happy.
“If they want to use Sam, he’s got a completely different game to me with a kicking game and ball skills.
“I’m just happy to play my part, there have been good midfielders here the last few seasons so if I can help in any way I will happily. If they want me they want me, if they don’t I just have to bite my lip and do what’s best for the team.”
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