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The 'point of ridicule' that has Sale happy with Bristol-bound AJ

By Liam Heagney
(Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)

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Sale boss Alex Sanderson has hailed the recent return to top form of AJ MacGinty, the out-half who this Friday is set to line out for the Sharks when they visit Ashton Gate, the stadium that will become the American international’s home club ground next season when he joins Bristol.

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It was November 10 when it was confirmed that the Bears has signed MacGinty, a player who had previously worked with their boss Pat Lam when they were together at Connacht for the Irish province’s 2015/16 PRO12 title-winning season. 

Lam had previously unsuccessfully tried to sign MacGinty since taking charge at Bristol in 2017 before the stars eventually aligned two months ago as the soon-to-be 32-year-old agreed to a transfer to the Bears rather than continue on at Sale. 

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That decision resulted in Sanderson going to be market and quickly recruiting out-of-favour England out-half George Ford as MacGinty’s replacement for next season. 

MacGinty will now get an early taste of what it is like to play at Bristol when he goes there this weekend with Sale in the Premiership and Sanderson is delighted that his team will go there with an out-half back in top form judging by his efforts in last weekend’s win over Wasps in Manchester.   

“He is doing really well,” said Sale boss Sanderson about MacGinty ahead of the player’s visit with his soon-to-be old club to his new employer on Friday. “I had a good chat with him on the field Monday because I hadn’t caught up with him in a while and kind of left him to it. AJ, as you have witnessed, is one of those players who if he is happy he plays really well because it frees him up like it does most people. 

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“You probably saw in terms of the performances post an injury after London Irish (in September) he had a little dip and wasn’t as mercurial or pulling the strings as he did last Saturday down at the AJ Bell. His performance on Saturday is a good indication of how he is right now which is a little more settled, certain of his future and the fact that he is leaving is accepted. 

“We give it to the academy boys here to sing a customised Christmas carol at one of our dinners and they actually wrote into this Christmas carol that AJ and JP (du Preez) were leaving (at the end of this season), so it has now become a point of ridicule for him and as soon as that happens you know it is accepted. 

“His wife is very pregnant, she is just about to have their second child and he seems very… we don’t speak about it [Sale playing Bristol], we haven’t mentioned it this week but he is right on in terms of probably wanting to prove to us what we will be missing and to them what they are getting.” 

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