Sale Sharks have secured the signing of England fly-half George Ford from rivals Leicester Tigers ahead of the 2022/23 season on a long term deal.
The news follows after Sale Sharks director of rugby Alex Sanderson revealed that he had opened the discussion with the 28-year-old last week after AJ MacGinty confirmed that he will be leaving the club at the end of the ongoing season.
A product of Leicester Academy, Ford made his senior debut for the club in 2009 and went on to make 40 appearances for them before switching to Bath Rugby in 2013. He made a switch back to Leicester Tigers ahead of the 2017/18 season and has overall made 113 appearances for them across both the stints.
“George Ford is world class – one of the very best fly-halves in the game over the past five years. This season he’s probably playing the best rugby of his career so we’re getting him at the right time," said Sanderson in a statement released.
“I met him twice and we had the chance to show him around the ground and the fact that he’s taken this decision, in the form that he’s in, with Leicester doing so well, tells me that he believes in the ambition of this club, and in the culture that we’re building.
“He’s a northerner and his heart is very much in this area. He’s been away for some years now but he’s coming back to his spiritual home. His family is hugely important to him and I know that his life outside rugby has played a part in this move.
“The exciting thing for me is that he’s 28 years old, and he’s coming here in the form of his life. We aspire to be a major force in the Premiership and in Europe too and we’ve got one of the world’s best flay-halves in his pomp.
“It’s massively exciting but not just because of how talented he is. When I’ve spoken to him it’s clear that he wants to help us bring the younger players in our squad on. He has so much desire to lift the people around him and that’s the kind of person I want here.
“It’s a massive boost for the club and it’s a big indication of what we’re all about and where we’re trying to get to.”
Ford will now reunite with his former Tigers team-mate Manu Tuilagi at Sale Sharks. Ford also has played 77 Tests for England since his international debut in 2014 and was a key member of Eddie Jones' squad that went on to reach the final of the 2019 World Cup but was left out of the ongoing autumn international series.
“It has been the most difficult decision of my career," said Ford.
“I am proud and grateful to represent this great club at Leicester and I will give my all for the rest of my time at Tigers.”
Leicester Tigers head coach Steve Borthwick is hoping for the star fly-half to finish the season on a high with the club currently holding the top place in the table with eight wins from as many games.
“George has made a personal decision, which he informed us of earlier this week, which means this will be his final season in Leicester.
“I have had the pleasure of working with him for a number of years, with England and now here at Tigers, and I am grateful to have had that privilege.
“We are fortunate to have the best following in rugby, who have been able to enjoy watching George represent their club for many years and I am sure they will echo me in thanking him for his contribution to Tigers.
“There are still a lot of games to be played in this season and George is fully committed to finishing his time at Leicester Tigers in front of big crowds at Mattioli Woods Welford Road, which our supporters can be proud of and to share in success with them.”