'It is the toughest club competition in the world'
September 2, 2013
Steve Diamond's Sharks side finished a lowly 10th in last season's Premiership © Getty Images
Sale Sharks boss Steve Diamond insists his side are primed for a fierce Premiership battle and has hailed English rugby's top flight as the 'toughest league in the world'.
The Sharks lost all seven of their opening league games last season, leading Bryan Redpath to move from director of rugby to backs coach, only for his replacement in the hot seat John Mitchell to last just a month as he headed back to South Africa. This led to Diamond relinquishing his chief executive role at the turn of the year to take over as director of rugby and he won five matches in guiding the club to Premiership safety.
But with the addition of Dean Richards' Newcastle Falcons to the mix this season, Diamond is well are avoiding the drop will not get any easier. And the former Sharks hooker insists his side must build on their head of steam from last year's mid-season turnaround to combat any complacency.
"It's going to be the most difficult season of all," said Diamond. "If we're honest, the Aviva Premiership is the toughest club competition in the world and it's going to get harder this year as, with all due respect to London Welsh, Newcastle are far more formidable opposition than they were.
"I think it's the pressure that we need really. We got it badly wrong last year against two or three teams - certainly London Welsh where we thought earlier on in the season we could just blow them away at home and we got beat convincingly.
"That was one of the knockdown effects for the team, we lost a lot of confidence and couldn't recover from it. So we'll be taking nobody lightly, we have to play at our very best every week to get a win or a bonus point. And that's the difference between the sides that go down - it's the ones who get the bonus points who stay up."
There will be a new man leading the charge for Sale in their season opener against Gloucester on Saturday after former All Black Dan Braid was appointed captain. He replaces fellow flanker David Seymour and Diamond, who wants Sale back in the Heineken Cup next term, is adamant everyone is on board with the decision.
"It wasn't an easy decision to make as Dave Seymour had done such a brilliant job," he added. "But the mentality we took is that Dave is a great player in the Premiership and he had a marvellous season captaining the side under difficult circumstances, and Dan brings a wealth more of experience from his captaincy days in New Zealand as a former All Black and natural leader.
"He plays well with Dave so there's no hiccup in the decision, it was a right one and Dave's backed it 100%. History tell us that every club I've coached at, we've got into the Heineken Cup. We got into it my first season back and last year we had a blip.
"We need to be up there - the sponsors demand it, the fans demand it and the players want it, it's the next step on the way to international rugby and any player or a coach with ambition wants to be in the biggest competition."
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd
Download ESPN's new UK multisport app, a fresh and powerful new way to follow your favourite UK sports news, scores and video.
"Cheika's been phenomenal. He gives you an incredible level of mental strength." Tom Hamilton talks to Waratahs star Jacques Potgieter
While the Super Rugby season enters the all-important knockout phase, elsewhere pre-season training never looked so enjoyable. We round-up the best snaps in our Week in Pictures
"Our scrums and lineouts are sometimes not that good but our men are very brave." Ken Borland finds that rugby is on the rise in Senegal
Laurie Fisher talks about the Brumbies and Gloucester, and provides revealing thoughts on the player involvement during the glory days in Canberra