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Sale ‘close door’ on Chris Ashton return as he hunts Premiership record

Alex Sanderson appeared to rule out any chance of Chris Ashton rejoining Sale Sharks, with the winger more likely to leave Premiership rivals Worcester Warriors following Steve Diamond’s arrival

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There are perhaps few people in rugby who would like to see Chris Ashton end his Premiership career on a high note more than Alex Sanderson—but it won’t come to fruition back at Sale Sharks.

That’s despite it looking possible that Worcester Warriors winger Ashton will re-enter the market in the near future following Steve Diamond’s recent move to Sixways.

Diamond—who was appointed lead consultant at Worcester last month—was director of rugby at Sale when Ashton abruptly left the club in March 2020 and joined Harlequins shortly after.

It was later suggested by Diamond that departure was due to a disagreement over the Sharks’ style of play, though the player has hinted his relationship with the director was the root of the issue.

Sale Sharks director of rugby Alex Sanderson has ruled out a move to re-sign Chris Ashton
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Ashton, 34, was with Quins for less than a year before he moved on to Worcester in January this year, but another move could beckon following his reunion with Diamond.

Sanderson—who succeeded Diamond in the Sale hot seat—told RugbyPass that while he wishes the best for his former Saracens charge, there’s no room at the AJ Bell Stadium for his old colleague.

“I spoke to Ashy, and I know this in good faith because he still lives near St Albans, he drives past the Saracens training ground and rings up [Saracens head coach] 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 (sic). I like the man but at the moment our books are full. At the moment I have to close the door.”

Do you think Chris Ashton will break the Premiership’s all-time try record? Let us know in the comments section.

Alex Sanderson has said Sale Sharks can’t fit Chris Ashton into their squad at present
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Former Sharks back-rower Sanderson retired at Saracens in 2005—the same year Ashton debuted for Wigan Warriors as a rugby league prospect—before he became an assistant coach at the London club.

His 13-year tenure on the Sarries backroom staff overlapped with Ashton’s five-year stay, cementing his status as one of the Premiership’s all-time great finishers before joining Toulon in 2017.

Fourteen years after his debut with Northampton Saints, Ashton requires only four more tries to overtake ex- Wasps and Leicester Tigers mainstay Tom Varndell as the league’s all-time top try-scorer.

The 44-cap former England star has crossed over a Premiership whitewash 89 times in his career to date, just one fewer than Sale legend Mark Cueto and three behind Varndell.

Chris Ashton joined Sale Sharks in 2018 after scoring 24 tries in 23 games for French club Toulon
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The veteran appears to be out of the rotation under Worcester head coach Jonathan Thomas, however, with question marks as to why Ashton has yet to make an appearance this season.

Thomas said in November the winger remains “unavailable for selection, and his prospects don’t appear likely to improve now that Diamond has a say in the decision-making process.

One would think there’s a Premiership team who would have use of the speedster’s talents as he seeks to break the league’s try record, but as he prepares to turn 35 in March, there’s a sense he may have missed his chance.

A second stint at Sale, closer to his native Wigan, could make for a winning combination on paper, but Sanderson is content with the squad at his disposal for the time being.

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