Sale boss Steve Diamond and his squad have gone back to the drawing board quite literally in an effort to halt their slide in fortunes.
In the wake of last Friday’s soul-destroying 30-23 home defeat by Exeter – a result Diamond described as one of the biggest disappointments in his 20-year plus career in the game – the 42-year-old chose to make his first-team squad sit through another screening of his specially produced ‘Year Zero’ DVD in an effort to remind his players of what is expected of them.
And to reinforce that message, the Sale chief asked his entire professional squad to write him a letter spelling out their hopes, desires, ambitions and current flaws.
To a man, the Sharks have responded with gusto, their missives displaying a level of honesty and ambition that has helped sweep away some – if not all - of the gloom which hung over the club’s Carrington training base at the start of the week.
Diamond told the Manchester Evening News: "I told them I wanted them to communicate with me on the record about their desires, their hopes, and the areas they felt they need to work on.
"I will compile all the responses and make a newspaper from them," revealed the Sale executive director of sport.
The response he got from the players has given the Sharks boss hope that they can turn things around.
"The responses I have got have just reminded me what a great bunch of lads we have got here. The fans were probably disappointed as much as I was at the final whistle last Friday but nowhere near as disappointed as the players were and they control their own destiny.
"The downside from last week is we lost a game we should have won and with a bonus point to boot. The upside is we have got a very ambitious bunch of lads who have all written me their own letters and spelled out their desire to put things right," he explained.
Diamond believes that showing the players the DVD a second time was important to ensure they remain focused on their goals.
"I wasn't being wise after the event in showing them the Year Zero video again as it was produced months ago.
"But we talk on there about being the fittest team in the Premiership, we talk about having the best medical care – well we've got less injuries than anybody else in the competition, a good academy – look at people like Will Addison and Henry Thomas who have come through into the first team.
"However, we also talk about the fact that we won't lie down and die – there's a question mark over that statement.
"And when we said 'We will win the majority of our home games' right now there's a cross next to that so the players and us as a coaching team know there is a lot to work on," he explained.
The poor results of late – the Exeter loss was Sale's sixth in seven outings – have been in sharp contrast to a bountiful start to the season that saw the Sharks climb up to third in the Premiership despite being shorn of 10 World Cup stars.
And Diamond believes that it is no accident that their slide in fortunes has coincided with the return of his contingent from New Zealand whom, he believes, still need to fully get on message with what he is trying to achieve.
"Before the so-called World Cup stars came in we did really well," Diamond added.
"How did we do that? Well, we only trained with 28 people all summer who all bought into what we're trying to achieve here. With the World Cup over, we have had eight or nine people coming back who have not bought into it and it spreads.
"Looking at the 15 starters from the Exeter game, five knew exactly what they are doing, five think they know what we're doing and five haven't got a clue. And I said to the players, 'If you think you are in the last five, you are one of them.'
"So we're going to strip things right back and have worked on all sorts of different scenarios in training this week," said Diamond.
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