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Sale confirm Gray departure

Mon, 29 Apr 2013 19:16
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All three are very important signings for us
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Sale Sharks have confirmed that Scotland lock Richie Gray will be leaving to join French club Castres.

Adding depth to their pack, Sharks director of rugby Steve Diamond confirmed that powerful forwards Michael Paterson, Kirill Kulemin and Charlie Walker-Blair will all be arriving next month.

And there should be more good news in the pipeline with Diamond hopeful of concluding at least one and possibly more deals later this week.

The capture of No.8 Paterson from Welsh giants Cardiff Blues is a real coup for Sale.

The 27-year-old New-Zealand-born star is Cardiff's current Player of the Year and the Blues were desperate to keep hold of him with Paterson, who will become eligible to play for Wales later this year, having offered him a three-year contract.

However, Diamond's famed powers of persuasion have held sway with the Sale boss seeing Paterson as the ideal replacement for Gray.

Kulemin, 32, meanwhile becomes the second player to swap relegated London Welsh for Sale Sharks in the wake of Tom Arscott’s capture last month.

Diamond knows all about the giant lock’s formidable ability having worked with him when he was in charge of the Russian national side.

And in an additional boost he will arrive at Barton bearing a French passport thanks to the six years he spent playing with Castres.

In the case of flank Walker-Blair, it’s a case of better late than never with Sale having been close to signing the 24-year-old from Exeter when Diamond first returned to take charge of the Sharks two years ago.

“All three are very important signings for us,” said Diamond.

“Michael has been outstanding for Cardiff and has been one of their key players over the past few seasons. Cardiff were very keen to retain him and he will be a really key addition to our pack next season. Though Michael has played at No.8 predominantly this season for Cardiff, going forward I see him more as a lock for us.

“In terms of Kirill, I know him very well from working with him with the Russian national side.

“He has played very well for London Welsh this season and has a huge physical presence. He also has massive experience from his time with Castres. He played very well against us too earlier this season.

“As for Charlie, he is someone that we have had our eyes on for quite a while now.

“He was out for a year with a knee injury but has totally recovered from that and has been playing really well with Jersey.

“He's a really talented No.6 and is a really big, imposing lad and he will also add a lot to our pack.”

Speaking about his move to Sale Sharks, Paterson said, “I am very excited to be joining the Sale Sharks. My Grandfather was born in England and I am English qualified, so playing in the Premiership has always been an ambition of mine.

“Having met with the coaches, I am excited about the prospect of joining the side next year and look forward to doing my upmost to see the team competing in the European Cup the following season.

“I would like to thank everyone at the Cardiff Blues, especially Peter Thomas for the last three years, but the time seemed right for a new challenge and I look forward to moving.”

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