George Ford will leave Premiership leaders Leicester Tigers to join Sale Sharks at the end of this season, the clubs have confirmed.
The announcement comes following a whirlwind week of rumours suggesting the England international had a deal in place to join English rivals Sale next year.
It was reported Ford already informed the Tigers hierarchy of his decision to leave Welford Road for a second time, with Sale boss Alex Sanderson confirming talks over a switch took place last week.
But the move is now official after Sale announced the 28-year-old will be on his way to the AJ Bell Stadium next year:
Leicester published a statement regarding Ford's departure on Wednesday, which Ford called "the most difficult decision of my career."
The club's director of rugby, Steve Borthwick, said: “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.”
Leicester are currently 10 points clear at the top of the Premiership and are unbeaten in eight games, with Ford hoping to cap his second spell at Welford Road with a second league crown.
The playmaker previously helped the Tigers clinch their 10th and most recent English title in 2013, when he replaced Toby Flood as a first-half substitute en route to beating Northampton Saints 37-17 in the final.
Oldham-born Ford told the official Sale website he was "excited about what the future holds – playing rugby in the North West, representing the club where I am from and helping drive Sale Sharks forward.”
Sharks chief Sanderson—who made 90 appearances for the club—highlighted the importance of that northwest connection: “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."
Ford will replace the outbound AJ MacGinty, who is set to join Bristol Bears at the end of the 2021/22 season.
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