Returning Neil Briggs catches Sale Sharks ‘bug’ as club strives for big time once again

Rarely do you find elite athletes so content, so happy with life as Sale Sharks hooker Neil Briggs.

Exchanges are usually polite, there’s some laughter. Hey, if there’s a medal around their neck, perhaps you might even get to pose with it.

But on a cold, winter’s day, with the Aviva Premiership season not far from kicking off, you might excuse a professional sportsman for leaving the AJ Bell Stadium early to put his feet up after an exhausting media day.

Not Briggs.

“It’s just a good place to be. It’s infectious. I walked in and caught the bug off the boys straight away,” he told MM.

“It’s quite refreshing to be at a club where everybody’s wanting to work for each other and get this club where it needs to be, in the top six and playing in Europe against the best teams. From there we’re good enough to do anything.

“I can’t say enough how happy I am to be back here.”

Briggs’ return was confirmed in January when, after four years away from the Manchester club he played six seasons with from 2005, including stints at Bourgoin and Leicester, he had little hesitation in deciding he wanted another slice of life in the North West.

Three minutes, in fact, was roughly how long it took the Germany-born forward to decide.

“I got the phone call and they asked if I would be interested. I said yes, probably, then I came up for a meeting and within the first three minutes they asked if I wanted to come back and I said yes,” Briggs recalled, his already broad smile growing ever wider.

“Then I left the room, they did the business and by the time I’d driven back to Leicester the contract was there. I signed it and it was all done and dusted within a few hours.

“I didn’t think four years ago I’d be coming back. I think I’m coming back a better player and a better bloke all round.



“I’ve been to different clubs and different countries and I’ve seen a different way of life and I think I’ve grown up a lot. In terms of rugby it’s great to get away and see how other people work.”

Such is Briggs’ outward-looking approach on life, he is predicting more Sale success on the pitch after the Sharks clinched their first silverware in nine years last weekend with the Kings of the North trophy.

“Clubs strive for stability. Sale had the majority of their success in the past and it worked to a certain extent, whereas now they’ve actually got that stable base and they’ve retained a lot of the squad,” said the 30-year-old.

“Half of that is having good blokes there, they all want to do the same thing. If you can get that then get rid of the guys who are maybe not and pushing against that, then that’s half the battle won.

“If you came in and spent a week in our environment you’d come out thinking ‘that’s a great place to be’. You’d feel part of the team. There’s not many places like that.

“It’s amazing and I think it probably is better (than when Briggs was previously at Sale). Everyone’s on the same page in the team room, there are no cliques.”

Part of what drives Briggs’ zest for rugby and life is his selflessness. The hooker once ended up playing flanker for 25 games in a season because of an initial crisis in the position with a ban and two injuries.

That side to the man is still going strong.

“If boys go down and they want me in the second row I’ll play second row,” he said.

But another reason is the exciting opportunity to work with hot prospects Tommy Taylor and Cameron Neild in the front row.

“Tommy will be playing for England this year if not the year after, if he’s not there’s something going wrong with the selection,” said Briggs.

“Cam’s hard as nails and he’s coming through as well, so we’ve got three guys who can go out and play Premiership games.

“Not every club in the league has got three hookers they could have starting. If I can help them in any way great, but equally they might help me.

“They’ll do things different to me which I can pick up. I’m just here to do whatever I can to make sure we win as a team.”

Sale open their Premiership account against champions Saracens at Allianz Park on Saturday before they welcome Worcester next Friday.  

Image courtesy of Sale Sharks via YouTube, with thanks.

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