Sale secure star names

Philippe Saint-Andre, who guided Sale Sharks to their first Guinness Premiership title earlier this year, has put club before country by signing a three-year extension to his contract.

Philippe Saint-Andre, who guided Sale Sharks to their first Guinness Premiership title earlier this year, has put club before country by signing a three-year extension to his contract.

The 39-year-old former French international centre, who won 69 caps from 1990-97, had been touted as a possible successor to Bernard Laporte who signalled his intention to stand down as national coach after the 2007 World Cup.

But Sale today received a triple boost when Saint-Andre, head coach Kingsley Jones and England fly-half Charlie Hodgson all committed their long-term futures to the club.

Saint-Andre, who joined in March 2004, was due to be out of contract at the end of the current season but, along with Jones, is now committed to at least 2010.

“Stability is very important in a successful team,” Saint-Andre said.

“To build this club it was important to start to anticipate. Apart from Charlie, there are eight or nine players out of contract at the end of the year.

“It’s very important to keep our best players and also maybe sign a few more players for next year. We need to think about this now and not in June.

“Everybody wanted Charlie and it was very important for the club to show the first signing. We have already started to speak with the others and now I am sure we can move on very quickly to secure our best players for the next two or three years.”

Saint-Andre also admitted he has unfinished business at Edgeley Park and was encouraged by the vision of owner Brian Kennedy and chief executive Niels de Vos.

“We have improved a lot over the last two or three years but, if we want to be one of the best teams in Europe, we need to move the club on and I share the vision of Niels and Brian, with whom I have a good relationship,” he added.

“My family and I are very settled in the north west and Sale Sharks is a great club to work for. It’s a pleasure to come to work every day.”

Saint-Andre believes the front runners for the French job would be Patrice Lagisquet (Biarritz), Fabien Galthie (Stade Francais) and Guy Noves (Toulouse), although he added: “Perhaps Bernard Laporte will stay.”

Meanwhile, Hodgson ended speculation over his future by signing a four-year extension to his current contract which will take him to 2011, when he will be 30.

Hodgson has scored more than 1,000 points since making his Sale debut six years ago and, according to de Vos, had the chance to earn more money with a move to a European club.

“He is perhaps the most sought-after player in Europe at the moment, with pretty much every club in Europe courting his services,” said de Vos.

“In times of inflated contracts and agents agitating for player moves, it’s really refreshing to deal with a genuine superstar who wants to stay loyal to the club that gave him his first chance.”

Yorkshireman Hodgson said he did not hesitate to sign a new contract and admits that he is likely to finish his career with the Sharks.

“It’s flattering to hear the sums of money that were flying around but I’m motivated by success and winning trophies,” he said.

“I want to be part of a successful side and I feel that Sale is that side to achieve that.

“This will take me up to 30 and hopefully I’ll have a few more years after that. I can’t see any reason why I should move anywhere else.

“It was an easy decision to sign a new contract. Sale gave me my opportunity in the first place and I’m a very loyal person.

“It was a case of trying to come to an agreement as quickly as possible. It was never really in my mind to leave the club.”

In addition to securing their best players, Sale are also hoping to build the club off the field and plan to seek planning permission to extend the Edgeley Park ground they share with Stockport County.

“Today’s announcements are a real mark of our intent,” de Vos added. “We’re potentially onto something very big here and I believe very strongly that we’ve only just started to scratch the surface.

“We want to go on and win more championships and do well in Europe but what we want to do is build a really big rugby club here.

“We are actually still quite small in terms of the gates and facilities that we’ve got. The vision isn’t just about on the field, it’s off the field as well.”

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