World Cup winner Ben Kay believes James Gaskell will be the lynch-pin for the new-look Sale Sharks new season – and he’s tipping the Premiership’s youngest-ever captain to catch the England selectors’ eyes sooner rather than later.
At the start of last season, Gaskell was made Sale skipper aged just 20 but the second row didn’t have the best of luck throughout the campaign and suffered an ankle injury, which sidelined him until January, while the inconsistent Sharks ended up in tenth place.
The Sharks have rung the changes at Edgeley Park, however, with more than 20 new faces arriving at the club and some high-profile departures, including fly-half Charlie Hodgson and Mathew Tait.
But Gaskell is going nowhere and Kay believes he will be the rock around which the Sharks are built next season.
“The thing with James is that we are just going to have to wait and see how he develops a little bit,” said Kay, who is an ESPN analyst for the J.P Morgan Asset Management Premiership Rugby 7s Series 2011.
“Sale obviously made him captain last year which showed what they feel about him and how they regard him as a prospect for the future.
“That said a lot about what they think about him and I think he is one of those younger guys who have the ability to go and play for England.
“If he does start to get himself into England contention then that will obviously work in his favour because he will be able to cover a number of different positions.
“He will need to prove himself and get himself up to that level but there is no reason why he can’t make it and do that.”
While Gaskell has played the majority of his Sale career in the second row, his versatility enables him to line-up in the flanks – and Kay believes such flexibility will help the 21-year-old at international level.
“The thing with James at the minute I think is that he is a little bit light,” added Kay.
“It works in his favour in some ways because it means that he is a very flexible player in terms of the way he plays and the positions that he can play in.”
Tickets for every round of the J.P. Morgan Asset Management Premiership Rugby 7s Series are available through Ticketmaster www.ticketmaster.co.uk or by calling 0844 847 249