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'It looks stupid': The story behind rugby's shortest-ever loan

By Liam Heagney
(Photo by Mike Egerton/PA Images via Getty Images)

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Sale have revealed the inside story behind the bizarre short-lived loan of Ewan Ashman to Glasgow last month. The 21-year-old didn’t even get to train with the Scottish club as an emergency Monday call came through to rush him back to Manchester where he has since appeared off the Sharks bench versus Saracens in the Premiership and started last Sunday’s Champions Cup win at Ospreys.   

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Despite making a try-scoring Test debut for Scotland off the bench in the Autumn Nations Series versus the Wallabies and backing that up with a second cap versus the Springboks, Sale felt it best that a loan spell at Glasgow would accelerate Ashman’s progress for the rest of a 2021/22 season that had already featured one appearance in the Championship for Coventry in September.  

Due to the presence of Akker van der Merwe, Tommy Taylor and Curtis Langdon on their hooker roster, Ashman had made only two appearances off the bench for Sale this season when it was decided last month that he would be better off seeking out additional game time elsewhere.  

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However, no sooner had the Warriors announced their loan signing did it emerge that he was immediately wanted back in Manchester. That was November 22 and six days later, Ashman was coming off the bench for Sale at Saracens and he has now also made his Champions Cup debut, wearing the No2 shirt in Wales.

“The quickest-ever loan agreement. He went on a Sunday, came back on the Monday. I don’t think he did one session,” quipped Alex Sanderson when asked by RugbyPass to explain the carry-on surrounding the hooker who is keen for club level exposure this winter so that he can keep his hand up for further Scotland selection.     

“We have got four good hookers in Akker, Curtis, Tommy and Ewan. Ewan is the youngest of those hookers and is probably the one who requires more game time to learn the dark arts of the set-piece for the most part because he is great around the park. He just needs to get some games under his belt. “It’s difficult enough to rotate three hookers in a squad to get them game time so we couldn’t have four. 

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“The decision we made – and right now it looks a stupid one – was to get Ewan more game time for his long-term development which was up at Glasgow. We were blessed to have another three good hookers in the short-term and Ewan would go on and progress quickly because he gets those minutes (at Glasgow) under his belt… but he is now back and is firing.”

It was an injury to Langdon that prompted Sale into recalling Ashman from his barely started loan and it resulted in some training ground banter that the hooker was back in Manchester so soon after his arrival in Glasgow. “Curtis Langdon came in on the Monday. It was a Friday night game (against Newcastle) and we had Saturday, Sunday off and he had his calf stamped on. So he comes back on the Monday and it’s not a stamp, it’s a tear, he actually tore his calf. 

“So we called Ewan and Curtis was the one who was taking the p*** out of him, so it shows you the tightness of the squad. He was happy, he was laughing, taking the mickey out of him that he was coming in because he had got injured. If we had known we would never have let him go.” 

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