Sale Sharks have confirmed that Saracens forward coach Alex Sanderson will take over as their new Director of Rugby.
As first reported by RugbyPass last week, Sanderson is ending a 17-year-relationship with Saracens to take over the top job at Sale, which was vacated by Steve Diamond in December due to family reasons.
The 41-year-old started his senior playing career at Sale Sharks in 1998, after playing junior rugby at local club Littleborough. He went on to make 90 appearances for the club, with his leadership qualities earning him the club captaincy.
“I’m joining a club I know all about from my time here, but things have moved on massively since those days and the opportunity to come back home and achieve something special was just too good to turn down,” said Sanderson.”
“After speaking to the owners and others at the club, it was obvious that there’s a huge amount of ambition and a real growth mindset here and that’s something that really stood out for me.
“There’s a fantastic amount of talent in the squad too – that’s clear for everyone to see – and the progress in recent years is a credit to all the players and the efforts of everyone behind the scenes. But I also believe there’s so much more potential to unlock here. I don’t think we’ve even begun to scratch the surface of what this club is capable of.
“Moving on from Saracens was a decision I had to think long and hard about, but I just felt the time was right to start a new chapter. I learnt so much during my time there; achieved a lot and made some friends for life, but ultimately the chance to put my own stamp on things and create a legacy at Sale Sharks and for rugby in the North West is what really excited me.
“I’m determined to give everything I have for this club and I can’t wait to get started.”
Chester-born, Sanderson gained five England caps whilst playing for the Sharks before moving to Saracens, although he only made eight appearances as a player before a back injury forced him to retire. He then went on to become instrumental in the success of Saracens, after first taking up the role of Forwards Coach in 2008.
— RugbyPass (@RugbyPass) January 14, 2021
Sale Sharks CEO Sid Sutton said: “He’s a former Sale lad who knows the club, knows our culture and shares our vision of making Sale Sharks one of the most formidable teams in Europe.
“We have been extremely pleased with how the current coaching team have taken the job on over recent weeks, under very difficult circumstances. The owners and I have been nothing but impressed with their desire and determination, so it was key for us to ensure that whoever we brought into the club complemented that, and I believe Alex will do that perfectly.”
Sanderson becomes the latest of a long line of former Saracens coaches and players who have gone on to coach in lead jobs at top-flight clubs and at international level, something the club is extremely proud of given its huge emphasis on the strength and development of its coaching and support team.
'When he leaves Saracens it will be with the blessing of every person there because they want the very best for him going forward.'
— RugbyPass (@RugbyPass) January 14, 2021
Saracens said they were saying goodbye to a ‘fantastic coach and, more importantly, a fantastic human’.
“Alex has an enormous heart and huge character. He will always be a dear friend of the club,” said Saracens CEO Lucy Wray.
“I know this was a tough decision for Alex, but we completely understand his desire to take on a new challenge and take the next step in his coaching career. As we do with our players, we want to continue to nurture our coaches and promote from within. Thank you, Alex, for everything you have given to Saracens, both physically and emotionally. You and your family are always welcome back to StoneX Stadium.”
Saracens Director of Rugby Mark McCall said: “Few people have been as central to the Saracens story as Alex. His drive, ambition and personality are woven into the very fabric of the club.
EXCLUSIVE: Alex Sanderson is set to become Sale Sharks new top dog. https://t.co/yyyNe6qHLl
— RugbyPass (@RugbyPass) January 10, 2021
“He is one of the leading Coaches of his generation, blending comprehensive technical and tactical knowledge with an in depth understanding of the people in his care. His creativity, ability to articulate message and ferocious desire to improve players, sets the standard of what it is to be a modern day coach.
“Away from the field, Alex is loved by everyone at the club. Honest, kind-hearted and generous, he is considered by many a dear friend. He is also a dedicated family man and we wish him, Emma, and Ty every success in the future. Thank you, Alex, for all you have done for our club.” ‘
England and Saracens forward Jamie George said: “It is nearly impossible to quantify the impact Al has had on every member of the playing squad at Saracens. He comes into work every day with a desire and passion to make the group the best they possibly can be.
“Where Al is different to others is the strong connection he has with the entire squad, he has taken a genuine interest in every player on and off the field and of course will be remembered for his weird and whacky ways of getting messages across to the group. On behalf of the playing squad, I would like to thank Al for showing us what it takes to be the best and wish him, Emma and Ty the very best in their move back to Manchester.”
Saracens owner Nigel Wray added: “All my family will miss you Alex, and indeed will miss all your family, Emma, Ty, your Mum and Dad… but we will always be friends. We will always be close friends. Thanks for those many years and the very best wishes for the future”.
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