Paul Deacon admits he has had sleepless nights since becoming Sale’s head coach on an interim basis this month and is hoping a change of competition will bring him some rest.
Deacon, Sale’s attack coach since 2015, was promoted after the abrupt resignation of the club’s director of rugby Steve Diamond following the last round of Premiership matches and just before the start of their Heineken Champions Cup campaign.
Defeats in Toulon and, unexpectedly, at home to Edinburgh have left them free to concentrate on the league. They started the Christmas round in fourth place after winning two of their first three matches and on Sunday will be looking for their fourth consecutive Premiership victory over last season’s beaten finalists, Wasps.
“The mood in the camp is good, but we want to get rid of the frustration of the last two weeks,” said Deacon, who this weekend has been able to pick the England flanker Tom Curry for the first time. “It was a tough team selection this week, but it is good to have that problem.
“Selection is the big difference between what I did before and now. I have had a few sleepless nights and it is something I have to get used to. Being the top man is different, but enjoyable. There is a lot more to think about and where before I did not have to talk to players who were not picked, I need to explain to them now and make sure they remain motivated. You have to think about everyone in the organisation all the time.”
Diamond’s departure was a shock because in the 10 years he was at Sale, they had turned from a club that could not afford to spend the salary cap to one which had become a top four contender and a regular in the Champions Cup with ambitions to keep climbing.
“A good result is crucial every week if you want to fight at the top of the league, which is where we believe we can be,” said Deacon. “We are at home on Sunday and we pride ourselves on playing there. I am looking for consistency and we will need an 80-minute performance against Wasps.”
Sale supporters can expect little change under Deacon who aims to continue the work started by Diamond. But for an outbreak of Covid-19 at the club last October that caused them to forfeit their final match at home to Worcester, they would probably have made the play-offs.
“I want the players to be free and positive, making the right decisions at the right time,” he said. “You cannot throw the ball around all the time, but I want the players to believe in each other. I have learned an awful lot in the five years I have been here because of the trust Steve Diamond put in me into how we attack. There is continuity and that is a good thing. All that has changed is that there is now a bit more responsibility on my shoulders.”