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Sale react to Ashton rumour, their take on Diamond at Worcester

By Liam Heagney
(Photo by Jan Kruger/Getty Images)

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No sooner was it announced last month that Steve Diamond was heading in the door at Worcester as their lead rugby consultant was the out-of-favour Chris Ashton linked with a switch back to Sale, the club he hurriedly exited in February 2020 following an alleged falling out over the Sharks’ style of play. 

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Ex-England winger Ashton was quickly snapped up at the time by Harlequins but he made just six appearances for the Londoners after joining from Sale and he then switched to Worcester last January on the premise of helping the youngsters at the club while also chasing down the elusive all-time Premiership try-scoring record held by Tom Varndell.

That milestone hasn’t yet been annexed by the 34-year-old, Ashton making just four appearances for the Warriors and none since a March 27 loss to Northampton. He and the club are now reportedly in dispute, with Ashton unlikely to see it through to the end of his contract in summer 2022.

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Ex-All Blacks prop John Afoa guests on the latest RugbyPass Offload
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Ex-All Blacks prop John Afoa guests on the latest RugbyPass Offload

That sticky situation resulted in the suggestion that Ashton could be a target for Sale, especially after they lost Denny Solomona to New Zealand for personal reasons a fortnight ago. However, Sharks boss Sanderson has shot down the link even though he maintains the highest regard for Ashton, a player he previously worked with at Saracens.   

“I spoke to Ashy,” revealed Sanderson to RugbyPass, “and I know this in good faith because he still lives near St Albans, he drives past the Saracens training ground and rings up Joe Shaw and asks, ‘Do you want me to pull in?’ And they are like, ‘No Ashy, we’re alright, keep driving’. I don’t think we are the only club he has been knocking the door on. I’d love to see his career finish off well, I do. I like the man but at the moment our books are full, at the moment I have to close the door.”

It was this week last year when Diamond surprisingly quit his role as the long-serving Sale boss, claiming he needed some time away from the sport following some bereavements in his family. With his batteries now recharged, he was snapped up last month by Worcester who last Saturday defeated Wasps in the league at the end of the consultant’s first full week working at Sixways. 

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Sanderson succeeded Diamond at Sale last January and he has now spoken about the situation that sees the Sharks’ former figurehead working at a rival Premiership club. “I don’t think anyone is surprised that he was going to get back in somewhere, somehow because he still has a lot to give to the game.

“It was a little bit of, ‘What is he going to do, better the devil you know type thing knowing Dimes’. There were some jokes cracked on the fact that they won, that the mercurial coach had fixed it already, but you always get that bounce when new coaches come in and I have had mine (at Sale). People were genuinely happy, not surprised, and there is a little bit of anticipation about what he might do. 

“Anyone of Steve’s experience (is valuable to the Premiership). Colourful, motivated, understands the game, the fundamentals of the game to get performance. I can’t say Worcester were struggling a bit because they beat us but they needed a bit of help there, a bit of guidance and he will be good for them, he will steady the ship.”

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