Alex Sanderson returns to Sale as director of rugby

Date published: January 15 2021

Sale Sharks have appointed Alex Sanderson as their director of rugby, ending the former England’s flanker’s long association with Saracens.

Sanderson will leave north London to join the club where he began his playing career, filling the vacancy left by Steve Diamond’s departure from the AJ Bell Stadium for family reasons.

The 41-year-old has carved out a formidable reputation as an assistant coach to Saracens boss Mark McCall during a trophy-laden spell, overseeing the forwards and defence.

Best in the business

McCall insists that Sale, who in recent weeks have been guided by Paul Deacon, are recruiting one of the best in the business.

“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,” McCall said.

“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.”

The 41-year-old started his senior playing career at Sale 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.

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.

He was key to the development of a world-renowned defensive system at Sarries in his role as forwards/defence coach, helping Saracens to three European Cup trophies and five Premiership titles in 12 years.

Speaking about his appointment at Sale, Sanderson said: “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.

“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.”