Israeli starlets up for Sale challenge


Menachem Ben Menachem has described the new partnership between Sale and the IRU as a major breakthrough for Israeli rugby.

Three members of the Israel Rugby Union’s Elite under-19 squad are in Manchester and will spend six months at the National 3 North league club.

Dekel Fleisch, Dor Perl and Uriel Mai-Jeiker will live in digs in Prestwich and have already been “made to feel at home by the local community,” according to Sale CEO Mike Jefferson.

Having represented Israel in European competition and at the Maccabiah, the players have come to England as part of the Rugby Year Abroad Project.

“This is the most significant step made by the IRU to date to ensure the continued advancement of Israeli rugby,” said Ben Menachem.

“We have taken unprecedented strides forward, achieving this through the determination, commitment and dedication of our professional Israeli coaches and players.”

The Israel team has risen from 94th to 46th in the rankings over past two years and Ben Menachem believes the link-up with Sale can help elevate them further.

“Our senior international side is thriving and this has encouraged the additional growth of our women’s game and our junior 7’s squads,” he said.

“But we now recognise the risk of over-achievement and acknowledge that the ceiling of our capabilities has been set by our limitations as a developing rugby nation.

“So we have sought to collaborate with clubs from within the Six Nations with whom we can share experience and professional expertise.”

The IRU have put a similar deal in place with Macon in France. By virtue of their ‘Elite Athlete’ status, the players have received a 12-month deferral of their army service in Israel.

Sale CEO Mike Jefferson said: : “The boys are all talented and they have been made to feel welcome by both the club and the local community.

“They train with us twice a week at Sale Sharks, do strength conditioning and play games on Saturdays. All the boys need to be playing rugby. It’s the only way to help them improve.

“They are delighted that we have professional facilities. In fact, we probably have more pitches here than in the whole of Israel.”

Jefferson believes the presence of the players could help boost attendances at Sale.

“There is a huge Jewish community in the area so it really is a win-win situation, and it puts us on the map,” he said. “We have nothing to lose, and you never know, we might just unearth a top player.”

IRU Overseas Development Officer Ian Kay said: “We’re trying to sustain what has been a pretty spectacular period of success.

“We want to take advantage of the expertise and skills of a Home Nations rugby structure for these players who are central to the future success of Israeli rugby.
“Sale was the obvious choice and they were recommended by the RFU.

“It’s an excellent collaboration, both now and in the long-term and, hopefully, Sale and the IRU will gain tremendous benefits from it.”

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