Last year proved to be a year where the Sharks came close to success. Always clear of relegation, their hunt for a top-six place fell late on but a respectable seventh-placed finish was the eventual result of a solid, but slightly disappointing, season for the Manchester outfit.
A top six berth will remain the aim this year, but, while they have lost key players, their competitors have recruited well, so it will be a tough ask.
The Coach: Steve Diamond
If it’s loyalty you want, there are few more well-equipped than the Sharks boss. Having arrived at Sale in 1989, via a junior career at Trafford, the former hooker served them for 11 years as a players before joining the coaching staff upon his retirement. After taking on the England Saxons role, he was then, in the view of many, harshly sacked by Saracens in 2006. He spent time with Northampton and Russia from 2007 onwards, but finally made his long-awaited return to the Sharks in 2011.
Having initially arrived as Director of Sport, Director of Rugby soon became his title, where he has led his side to Champions Cup rugby in two of his four years at the helm.
Key Man: Danny Cipriani.
One of England’s most mercurial talents, Cipriani has always shown promise without consistently delivering on his world class potential. After leaving Wasps under a cloud, a stint down under was followed by the switch up north, to a less pressurised environment, a move which has been viewed as a good one. The 27-year-old fly half has relished his starring role at the AJ Bell Stadium, racking up 580 points in just 76 matches, leading to calls of England selection.
If he can remain injury free, he will become difficult for the England selectors to ignore and could bring the Sharks some positives this year. Either way, he will be crucial to Steve Diamond’s cause.
Prediction: 9th, a definite slip.
For a number of years, the Sharks have been a side who have found themselves consistently in and out of the top six, but their squad for this year will be put firmly to the test following the loss of both Mark Cueto, to retirement, and Michael Paterson, who joins Northampton. With the likes of Gloucester and Harlequins set to enjoy better years this time round, a drop down the ladder looks likely for Sale.Odds for Title: 66/1.