Sale keen for Brian Ashton to team up with Danny Cipriani


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The Independent Online

Sale, brimming with ambition ahead of the new Premiership season after making significant strides on and off the field, are hoping to tempt the former England coach Brian Ashton back into big-time rugby.

Steve Diamond, the chief executive charged with restoring the club's fortunes after a lengthy spell amongst the also-rans, wants Ashton to take on an informal consultancy-style role and will meet him over the next few days in an effort to seal the deal.

Ashton has kept his distance from the professional game since losing the England job in deeply questionable circumstances in 2008, a few months after guiding the national team to the World Cup final and a few days after securing a runners-up finish in the Six Nations Championship – the side's best performance in that tournament since 2003.

He called time on a successful coaching stint with the third-tier club Fylde at the end of last season and is now a free agent, although he works closely with a major sportswear company and is in heavy demand as a lecturer on high-performance coaching.

Diamond recruited Bryan Redpath as Sale's new rugby director in June, shortly after the former Scotland scrum-half's abrupt departure from Gloucester.

However, he feels there is room for a little additional coaching know-how, especially as Danny Cipriani, the man who would surely spearhead England's attacking game at the 2015 World Cup if he could just find a way of fulfilling his potential, has also joined.

Cipriani has long regarded Ashton as his philosopher king and has frequently expressed a desire to work with him at Premiership level.

"Yes, I certainly plan to meet Brian with a view to sorting something out," Diamond said this week. "I'm aware of his reluctance to commit himself to anything formal, but he's an outstanding thinker on the game and he would add value to our coaching operation, which is already making progress under Bryan Redpath."

Graham Henry, another world- renowned coach in demand following New Zealand's recapturing of the Webb Ellis Trophy on home soil last year, has been confirmed as the new technical adviser and defence specialist for the Auckland Blues, working alongside the new head man John Kirwan.

Henry, who ran the Blues between 1996 and 1998 before launching his international coaching career with Wales, will return to Eden Park in time for next year's Super 15 tournament.