Arron Reed Exclusive - Sale Sharks wing on culture, rugby in the north & the Premiership final

Arron Reed on the charge in Sale Sharks' Gallagher Premiership semi-final win over Leicester Tigers
©Sale Sharks

This weekend’s Gallagher Premiership final will take place 17 years to the day since Sale Sharks’ maiden domestic title.

Then, the stars on the pitch were Jason Robinson, Charlie Hodgson, Sebastian Chebal and Juan Martin Fernandez Lobbe, their coach a Frenchman in the form of Philippe Saint-Andre and Twickenham was still undergoing its long-awaited facelift.

After beating Leicester Tigers all those years ago, it was expected to be the birth of an era of dominance for rugby in the North-West, although the reality was much different. Stars would move on or retire, but now under the leadership of Alex Sanderson, Sharks waters are teeming with optimism for what the future may bring.

Since Sanderson’s arrival back in Greater Manchester, after spending the best part of two decades with this weekend’s opponents Saracens where he helped turn the North Londoners into a club rugby powerhouse, we have seen Sale continue to grow to the stage of being top dogs once again.

After so many years of striving to reach these sorts of occasions, flirting with the top four and a narrative that the club would perhaps never repeat their exploits of 2006, the time is very much now for Sale.

Sanderson has installed a culture which is unparalleled in previous years, with there being a real sense of everyone at the club pulling in a collective direction. That direction will certainly have included this weekend’s Premiership final in its path.

“Our aim every season, especially since Alex has been here, has been to make the top four and this season more than ever," Arron Reed tells TRU. "It is not like a surprise, it is exactly where we wanted to be, and I think it is where we deserve to be this season because of how we are playing. 

“It is credit to the lads because it has been a long time since we have been there. We have built a good squad and a lot of culture around us. We love being with each other and playing with each other.”

Having had such a dominant season which started with a seven-game unbeaten run, before coming unstuck against Saracens, there has been an impact off the field too. 

Selling out the AJ Bell Stadium two Sundays ago for their semi-final, when Sale got off their team bus, they were met by hundreds of fans. Blue flares were set off as the players set down a tunnel of their supporters, treading a blue carpet.

It was the sort of occasion usually reserved for rugby elsewhere, those scenes rarely seen in the English game, but they set the stage for the George Ford masterclass which followed.

Simply put, Sale’s fly-half did everything perfectly, controlling the game excellently against his former club and sending his new one to unscaled heights. Reed was the beneficiary of Ford’s brilliance, the 23-year-old scooping up a bounce pass from his principal playmaker to score in the corner.

Ford would later describe the ball to Reed as a “shocking pass” which he thought was going to bobble into touch, while also heaping praise onto the homegrown back three which has excelled all season in the English top-flight.

Reed would have had a greater say in things too if the wing hadn't of passed forward to Raffi Quirke just seconds after his try, making for a nervous finish in Greater Manchester for all those donning blue.

“Scoring the try, it is a strange feeling,” Reed said. “For me, I don’t really know what is going on at the time, but when you do it, you put it down and realise ‘I just scored in the semi-final of the Premiership’ and you think to yourself afterwards how surreal it is.

“Even after I gave that forward pass to Raffi, the game still wasn’t over and it was nervy. At the end, even my parents and my girlfriend were saying how nervous they were. It is just so good that after the season we have had that we can progress to the final.

“We have got one more to go. We are all very confident and we want to continue what we are building. It is a big one. We are all looking forward to it.”

For the semi-final, Reed had to arrange 17 tickets so that his family and friends could attend. His fiancé, Fiona, mother, Sarah, and sister, Kirsty, among others, wore some of the wing’s old jerseys in support, all of them joining him on the pitch at the final whistle to celebrate his and Sale’s achievement.

For the trip to Twickenham, there will be two more tickets he will need as Reed’s grandparents, Christine and Tony, will make their way down from Scotland.

The opportunity to see their grandson on the big stage is too big to miss, with Reed joking that it will have to be his fiancé that has to shoulder the burden of the logistics with his plate already full.


It was halfway through this season that Sale began indicating which of their players were from the north. In part, this came as a result of their Allianz Premier 15s side having their initial application to stay in the competition rejected which at the time, made Loughborough Lightning the northern-most team in the league.

Now, the hashtag ‘Northern Rugby Matters’ can be found adorning t-shirts, as well as across the club’s website. While being a flashy phrase which dominates what the club does, it is displayed in the team that took on the Tigers last time out.

In the backs, it was just the centre pairing of Manu Tuilagi and Rob du Preez who were not from the north. Reed himself was born in Chester and raised in Wigan, while Tom Roebuck was born in Scotland and brought up in Chester, with their full-back, Joe Carpenter, making his way across the Pennines from Leeds.

Reed [right] with fellow Academy graduate and wing, Tom Roebuck, after semi-final victory
©Sale Sharks

In all, some 13 of the semi-final squad had an ‘N’ for ‘Northern’ attributed to them, and it is a driver for the playing group. 

“You can see the north is left out quite a bit,” Reed said. “It is not just the players as well, the coaches at Sale are northern. Alex [Sanderson] has played for Sale, Pete Anglesea, Briggsy has played for Sale, Spraggy [Warren Spragg] has played for Sale.

“All these coaches have been brought up on it and they are just as proud and just as passionate about getting into the Prem final as we are. It is contagious throughout the club and being northern, it rubs off on everyone.

“The South Africans, they see how much of a big deal it is to us, and for them to come in and play alongside us, they add to it and all of us are really proud about where we have come from and we want there to be more recognition of how well Sale are doing.”

Growing up, Reed managed to play for several club sides before attending Kirkham Grammar after back-row forward Sam Dugdale convinced his then Lancashire U15s teammate to come to the school. 

Tarleton RUFC, Preston Grasshoppers, Wigan RUFC and Sefton RUFC are the various places where Reed tested himself as a youngster, the wing joining the Sharks Academy at 15 and signing his first professional contract just two years later.

Before establishing himself as a first-team regular, Reed certainly had to bide his time, gaining minutes with National One club Sale FC where his try-scoring prowess certainly caught the eye and helped him earn England U20 honours. 

It is thanks to his father, Allan, that Reed ultimately developed an interest in the game in the first place. A grizzled Scot and club rugby veteran, the diminutive flanker managed to coerce Reed away from football and set his son on the path to professionalism.

“My Dad played until he was about 42,” Reed said. “I remember going to a game and he broke his arm, had it in a sling and I did his gears on the way home because he couldn’t move.

“My uncle [Steven] actually played for Leicester for a bit, that was a while ago, played Scotland age group and all that sort of stuff. I used to play football and they were the ones saying, ‘You are not the best at football, play rugby’.”

Getting the best out of the team

Still only 23, Reed has been a fixture at Sale’s Carrington training ground for just over half a decade. In all, the wing has 92 appearances for his boyhood club, his 93rd outing likely to be the most memorable to date. 

This season has been his most consistent - 28 appearances across all competitions - making nine starts in the Premiership and scoring six tries in the process. Over this term, Reed has grown into a starter under Sanderson, perhaps crucially as the campaign races towards its finale this weekend.

“I think last season was probably the season I came into it most and started most of my games,” Reed said. “I think the main thing is, we signed Flats [Tom O’Flaherty] this season, and there is me, Flats, Roebuck, and Byron [McGuigan] as well.

“We have such good competition in training, all pushing each other to be better and this season, Roebuck and Flats have been the main starters for the majority of the season, but the fact that Flats has come in and started, it’s made me a better player because I have had to work hard to get a starting position.

“Byron is such a good mentor for me, and he has helped me with defence and how to get on the ball more in attack and how to make things happen. I would say that is one of the super strengths, getting on the ball and attacking one-on-one and that sort of stuff.

“I think the main thing is the competition coming. It has made us all better together and none of us are sour about it. We actually want each other to get better, whereas I think at a lot of clubs, people will be sour with each other and not be friends.”

That competition is a trait found throughout this Sale group, whether it be Simon McIntyre and Bevan Rodd jostling for the starting loosehead slot or the back-row continuing to be a constant source of debate.

But more than that, Sale’s competition is underlined by the strong culture at the club. In some ways, there is some of Saracens’ DNA in the North-West. That is understandable given Sanderson’s time spent with the Londoners, the friendship of the group extending far beyond their working hours.

“My driving points are getting the best out of myself and the best out of the team,” Reed said. “I have grown up at Sale, all my friends are at Sale, I love playing for Sale because I get to go training every week and be with my friends.

“That is one of my main things, and that does drive me more than anything. When you enjoy yourselves and you are scoring tries, there is no other feeling like it. That is probably one of the things that drives me the most and doing it as a team.

“There probably wouldn’t be any better feeling than winning a final with all of your mates. I think that is one of the main things that drives it for me; doing it with the boys I love doing it with.”