Saracens stalwart Sanderson returns 'home' to Sale

London (AFP) –


English Premiership club Sale announced on Friday they had appointed Alex Sanderson as their new director of rugby, ending the former England flanker's long association with Saracens.

The 41-year-old, who spent the bulk of his playing career at Sale, replaces Steve Diamond, who left his post last month for "personal reasons".

Sanderson, capped five times by England, said it was great to be returning "home" to the northwest club, who are in fourth spot in the Premiership table, five points behind leaders Bristol.

As an assistant coach under Mark McCall he played a key role in Saracens' domestic and European success, though their achievements have been tarnished by relegation to the second tier following salary cap breaches.

"The opportunity to come back home and achieve something special was just too good to turn down," said Sanderson.

"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," he added.

McCall, director of rugby at Saracens, paid a warm tribute to Sanderson, who has been part of the coaching staff for 15 years since a back injury forced him to hang up his boots.

"Alex 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," he said.

"His creativity, ability to articulate a message and ferocious desire to improve players sets the standard of what it is to be a modern-day coach."

Sanderson's first match in charge of Sale is set to be against Leicester on January 30.