Scotland rugby star Richie Gray spoke today of “the hardest call of my career” after finalising a three year deal with Sale Sharks.
The 6ft 10in second row, who took his cap haul to 16 as a World Cup ever-present, will join the Edgeley Park club at the end of the current season.
Said 22-year-old Gray in a statement issued by Glasgow: “I’d like to put on record my thanks to Glasgow Warriors for the support they’ve given me in all aspects of my life as a professional rugby player.
“Being a proud Glaswegian it’s been a massive honour to wear the blue and black jersey and I’m looking forward to enjoying more special days in it before my time here ends.
“I was impressed by the efforts that the club and Scottish Rugby made to keep me in Glasgow, and it’s without doubt the toughest decision I’ve ever had to make.
“This isn’t about money: I’ve always been keen to test myself in England and I feel this is a good opportunity to do so.”
Regarded as one of the most exciting talents in the world game it is understood the Scottish Rugby Union owners of Glasgow made considerable efforts to retain the player in the face of competition from Bath, Saracens and three French clubs.
However, Gray has opted to follow in the footsteps of Fraser McKenzie (Edinburgh) and Richie Vernon (Glasgow) who quit Scotland over the summer to join Sale where current internationalist Alasdair Dickinson is also in the squad.
Warriors chief executive, Kenny Baillie, said: “We’re clearly very disappointed that Richie has decided to move on at the end of the season.
“A concerted effort to retain his services has been made across many weeks by a significant number of people within Glasgow Warriors and Scottish Rugby.
“The package we presented to him was certainly substantial from both a playing and financial point of view, and Richie has informed us that this was an extremely difficult decision to make.
“We’ll be sad to see him go, but it’s important to emphasise that Glasgow Warriors are far from a one-man team, and Richie’s departure will not affect our and Scottish Rugby’s commitment to ensuring the club continues to grow on and off the field.”
Mark Dodson, Scottish Rugby’s chief executive, commented: “There’s naturally disappointment on our side because we’re committed to keeping our top players in Scotland and Richie comes into that category.
“We did everything in our power to hold on to him, but we respect his decision, and look forward to supporting him as a key component of the national team.
“I’d like to reassure supporters of the professional teams that we will be doing everything in our power to support our coaches in securing the leading players at both Glasgow Warriors and Edinburgh on long-term contracts.”
Sale boss Steve Diamond said:
“Richie is only 22 but has the makings of a world class forward. He has bought into our vision at Sale Sharks and wants to spend the next part of his career in Manchester.
“Sale Sharks have a great relationship with Scottish players down the years from Bryan Redpath and Jason White.”