Sale Sharks’ bright young fullback Mike Haley has observed one key trait in all the planet’s best no. 15s during the World Cup: stability.
Stability then breeds confidence in those around you and potentially the ability to launch devastating counter-attacks through a series of options that fullbacks are always presented with.
The key is which one to choose, something Haley feels he let his teammates down with last weekend in the humbling 41-3 opening Premiership defeat to Saracens, as they prepare to welcome newcomers Worcester Warriors on Friday evening.
“I think fullback now is very much a position where you need to be stable, like the rock at the back because a lot of pressure will come onto you,” Haley told MM on a sparkling October day after a lengthened – and productive – training session.
“If you’re very stable and you get an upper hand there then the team can build an attack. The main teams in the World Cup I’ve noticed have that fullback.
“They’ll know whether to send the ball long, do an up and under, tackle, it’s that decision making.
“You’ve got to be that centrepiece just to make sure everything’s ticking. If you go quiet, no one really knows where you are at the back of the field because they can’t turn around.
“No one wants to be sketchy about what’s going on behind. They want to know that if anything goes on there the fullback will there to cover up.”
Sketchy would probably go some way to describing Sale’s humbling by champions Saracens, which left players and management scratching their heads after a promising pre-season which included the Kings of the North title.
“That’s not the team we’ve been all pre-season, the team we’ve been building towards,” said Haley.
“This year if I’m going to be getting the ball a lot I need to cut out silly errors. I made maybe one or two on the weekend and if I want to progress I need to cut them out completely.
“Though I’d rather play badly and we win. It’s more of a team ethic we’ve got going at the moment.”
Haley joked he might send Worcester centre Max Stelling, who he played with when they were younger, a text to get some inside information on the Warriors, who started life in the top flight with a last-ditch 13-12 defeat of Northampton Saints.
“They’ll be competitive all season, they showed that beating the Saints at home, so we’ll have to be on our mettle this week and focus on ourselves,” added Haley.
“I think if we do our jobs right we should cause them some problems. We’re not going to dwell on the past, we’re going to go out to attack and really win that game.”
Sale director of rugby Steve Diamond said the Saracens result was a “huge wake-up call” and urged his troops to show a similar resolve to Worcester tomorrow.
“They are coached well by Dean Ryan and he has recruited well during the summer.
“Last Friday, we saw not only how they can attack but also how they defended against Northampton.”
Team: 15.Mike Haley, 14. Tom Arscott, 13. Johnny Leota, 12. Sam Tuitupou, 11. Will Addison, 10. Danny Cipriani, 9. Chris Cusiter, 1. Ross Harrison, 2.Tommy Taylor, 3. Vadim Cobilas, 4. Bryn Evans, 5. Jonathan Mills, 6. Dan Braid (capt), 7. David Seymour, 8. Josh Beaumont
Replacements 16. Neil Briggs, 17. James Flynn, 18. Brian Mujati, 19. Andrei Ostrikov, 20. TJ Ioane, 21. Peter Stringer, 22. Nick Macleod, 23. Sam James
Image courtesy of Sale Sharks via YouTube, with thanks.