After having his contract revoked by the IRFU this month, former Ulster centre Stuart Olding has been looking for a new club and sources have confirmed to RugbyPass that Sale Sharks are close to finalising his signing.
Olding, along with former provincial teammate Paddy Jackson, was part of a high-profile criminal investigation over the last few months and although found not guilty of rape, his conduct in the event was deemed unacceptable and his position at Ulster became untenable.
Sale director of rugby Steve Diamond has taken on players with chequered pasts before, helping them turn around their careers, and he will be hoping he can have a similar effect on Olding, should the Irish centre agree to terms with the Premiership club.
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Diamond and Sale are not afraid to ruffle feathers and have also been aggressively pursuing Israel Folau, who made controversial comments about homosexuality on social media earlier this month and is currently facing a backlash from fans and players alike.
With the club losing Will Addison and Mike Haley to Ulster and Munster respectively, there are obvious holes in the Sale squad at centre and full-back, making the on-field decision to pursue both Olding and Folau understandable.
With the Olding deal nearing competition and Sale having since, per RugbyPass sources, increased the previously reported £750k offer to Folau, the club will have to prepare for an inevitable PR hit if they sign one or both players.
Diamond and the new Sale ownership are keen to flex their muscle and push Sale further up the table and it seems as if they are willing to give Olding the fresh start he craves, and they are comfortable with the risks associated with that.
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