October 4, 2012
Bedford's Andy Gomarsall struggles to bring down Harlequins' Jason Kayter - it proved to be a familiar feeling in their 1999-2000 season © PA Photos
Despite big name signings, a new ground and a fresh-faced coach, Sale are winless going into the sixth round of this season's Aviva Premiership.
They have sacked their forwards coach and despite making six changes ahead of their latest match with Bath, it was a performance laced with uncertainty, ill-discipline and a lack of structure. Supporters of the Sharks will hope it's just a case of a side struggling to gel under a new leadership but it will not get any easier when they welcome Leicester to the Salford City Stadium on Friday.
With this in mind, this week's Scrum Sevens looks back at some of the worst starts to a season.
Bedford (1999-2000 Allied Dunbar Premiership - 15 losses on the bounce)
With the backing of boxing promoter Frank Warren and Sports Network, Bedford gained promotion to the English top-flight ahead of the 1998-99 season. They managed to survive their first campaign in what was then the Allied Dunbar Premiership and boasted some recognised internationals in their ranks - including Scotland's Scott Murray, England's Andy Gomarsall and Rory Underwood, Australia's Alastair Murdoch and Canada's Scott Stewart. But in April 1999, Sports Network sold the club to Jefferson Lloyd International - a controversial decision which led to the intervention of the Rugby Football Union and a local consortium.
Amid the uncertainty surrounding the side, Bedford floundered in their second campaign in the Premiership and fell to 15 straight defeats from the outset of the 1999-2000 season. They eventually stopped the rot against the Newcastle Falcons on April 8, 2000, but it proved to be their sole win and were relegated with a woeful three points to their name.
Caerphilly (2001-02 and 2002-03 Celtic League - 13 straight defeats)
When the competition we now know as the RaboDirect PRO12 was formed back in 2001, the format saw the teams split into two pools with the top four in both progressing to the knock-out stages of the tournament. That was clearly the goal for the 16 participating sides but for Caerphilly, it became more a matter of winning their first match. The 2001-02 campaign saw them lose every single game shipping 292 points in their six games including a 62-0 thrashing at the hands of Connacht.
The following season, unfortunately for the Caerphilly faithful, saw them slump in a near identical fashion - no wins from their seven matches with 324 points conceded and a 67-15 defeat to Ulster. The following season saw the four Welsh regions established with Caerphilly becoming part of the Newport Gwent Dragons but it was a tough couple of seasons for the team in the Celtic League.
Bulls (2002 Super Rugby - a whole season without a win)
The Currie Cup's Northern Transvaal were one of the Super Rugby-founding teams back in 1996 and in their first season they performed well finishing third. A couple of years later South Africa adopted the franchise system that their New Zealand and Australian rivals used from the outset of the tournament and Northern Transvaal morphed into the Northern Bulls. Despite being one of the only three sides to have won three Super Rugby titles or more, in the early days of the competition they struggled. From 1998 to 2003 they finished either at the foot of the table or second last - a far cry from their imperial noughties best.
In 2002, having lost the 'Northern' part of their name, they hit rock bottom - quite literally. They finished at the foot of the Super Rugby table with no wins to their name and 500 points conceded.
Rotherham Titans (2003-2004 Zurich Premiership - a fruitless campaign)
Rotherham's first foray in English rugby's top flight ended in relegation but they managed to record two wins while in the Premiership - overcoming London Irish and Saracens. They started that season with seven straight defeats and supporters would have hoped that the side had learned some harsh lessons ahead of their second spell among the elite. The start of the 2003-04 season also came with the added bonus that many of their rivals' had been stripped of their international players due to the 2003 Rugby World Cup.
But it proved to be insignificant. They lost every single match in the in the season scoring 309 points and shipping 770. The relegation prompted an uncertain future for Rotherham and they were on the brink of being forced to close due to "unsustainable indebtness". But a local consortium saved the club and while their off-field future appeared to stabilise, they finished eighth in National Division One the next season.
Lions (2010 Super Rugby - conceding the most points in Super Rugby history and failing to win)
The Lions took their bow in the 2007 tournament - after previously being labelled the Cats - and managed to win five games in the process. They finished at the foot of the table in 2008 but finished 12th out of 14 teams in 2009. Come the 2010 season, they had the man many perceived to be one of the brightest talents in South African rugby at fly-half - Earl Rose - and made noises about improving as a franchise. But it proved to be in vain.
Leeds' Dan Browne reflects on their relegation from the top flight in 2011 © Getty Images
They ended the campaign winless, conceding 585 points in the process - the most in Super Rugby history - and finished the season with a heavy 59-10 defeat to rivals the Cheetahs. Despite their traditional good showing of the Golden Lions in Currie Cup rugby - they were 2011 champions - they have barely transferred this form to the Super Rugby stage in recent times and will sit out the 2013 tournament with the Southern Kings taking their spot.
Leeds Carnegie (2010-11 Aviva Premiership - no joy until the New Year)
They are a team with a proud history and experienced eight seasons in England's top flight during the noughties but like Worcester, they never troubled the top of the table. Their worst campaign came back in the 2007-08 season when they won just two matches and they looked certain to replicate this in 2010-11 when they started the season with nine straight defeats - a run that included one of the worst games the Premiership has witnessed, their 6-3 loss to Sale on October 22, 2010.
But they experienced some reprieve around Christmas when two fixtures were postponed due to the inclement weather. This appeared to rally Carnegie and they recorded their first win of the season on New Year's Day against Gloucester. They very nearly pulled off the 'Great Escape' but were relegated on the last day of the season when they lost to the Northampton Saints.
Aironi (2010-11 Magners League - a baptism of fire and 17 straight defeats)
The 10-team Celtic League was expanded to 12 for the 2010-11 season with two Italian sides getting the nod for the first time. Treviso and Aironi were thrown into the mix alongside seasoned European giants such as Munster, the Ospreys and Leinster. It was a torrid first campaign for the Italians and they won just one game - it came against Connacht on March 26, 2011, a full 17 games into their 22 match season.
They were replaced by Zebre for the 2012-13 RaboDirect PRO12 season after the Italian Rugby Federation revoked their licence due to financial uncertainty. But while they will be consigned to a dark dusty corner in the rugby archives, they did record a hugely impressive 28-27 win over French giants Biarritz during their 2011 Heineken Cup campaign.
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
Tom Hamilton is the Assistant Editor of ESPNscrum.
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