Steve Diamond was up first and straight away made it clear his aim is to win the Anglo-Welsh Cup and that he’s not interested in what other clubs views are – Sale Sharks will be focused on qualifying and winning. Team selection will be interesting he admitted with Josh Charnley tipped to make his debut but more of that later. Will Addison and Magnus Lund came through their HIA assessments from Sunday fine but will be rested this Friday whilst Tom Arscott comes back into contention after 2 weeks training and a long lay off. Tom Curry (although Dimes admitted to still confusing the two identical twins) could well play after an impressive game last week but all Dimes youngsters are in contention. Paolo Odogwu got the day off today but Dimes was keen to praise the youngster and indeed Sale fans will be keen to see how two such fast wingers combine together.
Whist the Sale faithful were clearly pleased to get an away win under their belts Dimes was having none of it, seeing it as a game Sale were always going to win. He pointed out that apart from Sarries and Chiefs very few Premiership sides win away from home but felt that Sale seem to be unfairly singled out. Sale have scored 5 tries in 4 games already this season. He also praised Sam James who he felt had had a spectacular game last Sunday but not received the recognition Dimes felt was due. Expect to see Sam come out in the Number 10 position on Friday! When asked about a top 4 finish this is still seen as the goal for the club.
Dimes unequivocally denied the media rumours that Sale had put in a bid for Denny Solomona from Castleford and confirmed again that they are not looking to sign any new players this season. Indeed with the likes of the Curry twins and James Mitchell on the bench he prefers to keep the team tight. Interest has already begun in signings for next season with a number of players being actively looked but none to be discussed at this stage.
Conversation then moved on to Josh Charnley and Dimes stressed that he was a keen lad who was ready to do a big job for the club. Positioning has been the key challenge and the club have been working hard on this. Whilst Dimes wouldn’t be drawn on a Charnley start a little bird tells me Sale fans can look forward to seeing him play some part in the game on Friday. Dimes got perhaps understandably frustrated at some of the parallels people were trying to draw between Josh and other League players who failed to make the transition and explained that positioning was the key; and something Sale with its two ex-Rugby League coaches fully understands. Josh is there to play on the wing and that’s where he’ll play. As he put it – if he signed a Union forward he wouldn’t play him in in the back!
There is clearly a lot of respect in the club for the Wigan set up and Dimes praised the high skills level and motivation of all the players that the club looks after. Certainly attributes he has seen in Josh. Chris Ashton was quickly dismissed as a comparator as he came over to Union at a young age and Jason Robinson whilst sharing many attributes was of a different era. Josh Charnley will make his own mark.
That moves us swiftly on to Josh Charnley. Now as regular readers will know I often want to take the Sale boys home with me (for a variety of reasons) but Josh Charnley is quite simply the loveliest, most unassuming rugby player I have ever met! He charmed even the real journalists and if Sale have any sense they wheel him out to talk to the Academy players at all levels.
A local lad, with a wife from Leeds (baby expected in 4 weeks – good luck Josh) any move to Rugby Union was always likely to involve Sale Sharks as a move away from the area was never really on the cards. Something he shares with the other Josh in the team! He revealed it was over 2 ½ years ago that he began thinking about the move and its to his credit that he’s kept so focused on his League game in this time. He felt he had done all he could in League, having been at Wigan since he was 13; and as a still young lad was still up for a new challenge, which Union would clearly provide. Deciding factors proved to be idolising Jason Robinson as a youngster, watching England beat Wales at Twickenham (and fancying a piece of that action) and meeting Dimes, who he explains had faith in his transition right from the start. In fact he credits with Dimes in one meeting making his mind up finally for him. Convincing his Mother wasn’t easy and hearing Josh talk you clearly get a sense of how well grounded he is and what his family means to him. He is quick to thank his parents for all the support they’ve given over the year from school rugby right up to the present day and so having them on side was clearly important to him. Whilst his Father was immediately supportive his Mother has now come round, presenting him 3 days ago with a much treasured book of comments and memories of everyone he’s ever played with that has taken her six months to compile. I think we all got a bit emotional at that stage!
So what’s he been doing to prepare? Well the routine is slightly different but he’s already on board with that. A lot of video watching – he watches wingers from all clubs very closely to see what moves they make and their all important ‘positioning’, Neither he or Dimes see his role as varying greatly in the change in codes but with differences in the stop/start nature of the game, ball handling and contact. He’s experienced 3 contact sessions and thinks he’s picking it up well with help from the other players. As he laughingly pointed out he has no bad habits to unlearn.
Sale have considerable and successful experience in enabling League players to make the transition and Josh is quick to thank the two Sale ex-rugby league coaches in helping him with this. He’s played with and been coached by Paul Deacon before and the camaraderie is clearly there between the two. The hardest thing? Josh told us that the view from League is that wingers sit ‘out in the cold’ in Union but he’s certainly not found that to be the case finding ‘wing’ to be a far more fluid term than he’s used to.
What of comparators with Sam Burgess? Well like Dimes Josh doesn’t see this as a fair comparison – Burgess was played in lots of different positions and was pushed straight into the deep end. There’s clearly no chance of that happening at Sale and Josh isn’t fazed by it at all. Sam’s Sam and he’s Josh. He is however keen to create a legacy for other League players who want to make the transition and you get the feeling he cares about making that happen. He also revealed the abuse he’s received particularly on Twitter when he announced his move. Did it trouble him? Nah - he just blocks people but is keen to prove any doubters wrong.
Does much trouble him? I suspect if he has his family not much! He describes himself as chilled and he came across that way. However he did reveal he likes time to himself before his matches on his own and that certainly if he plays this Friday that he’ll be quietly ‘buzzing’. He’s also got an eye to an England call up and would clearly love to walk out onto the Twickenham stage. Interestingly whilst crediting Joe Tomkins with providing a lot of help since he announced his move support has also come from Luthur Burrell, George Ford and Owen Farrell to name but a few, proving I’m not alone in thinking he’s a genuinely good guy.
‘Joining Jack’ is a charity close to his heart and he is clearly a strong supporter, again getting emotional as he talks about his attachment to this very personal cause. Finally – and for Twitter followers of Josh predictably we got onto fishing, something Josh likes to do in his spare time = he describes himself as a good all rounder with his record at 21 lb carp to his credit and as for the pike that got away ………………………………….
Thanks to Dimes, Josh and as ever, Dave Swanton and Stephen Thomas.