Chris Ashton joins Sale after Toulon release

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Chris Ashton has joined Sale after being released by Toulon, the Gallagher Premiership club have announced.

The former England wing was granted a release from the final two years of his contract with the French side due to family problems.

The move potentially opens up a route back to the England side for the 31-year-old, having been ineligible for international selection during his spell in the Top 14.

It also takes the former Northampton and Saracens player back to his native north-west, where he began his professional sporting career in Rugby league with Wigan.

Ashton said in the statement: “This really feels like going home. I’ve always thought, in the back of my mind, that I’d return to the north to play Rugby and I’m delighted to be joining Sale Sharks.”

Ashton joined Toulon last year and enjoyed an outstanding first season in Top 14, setting a new try-scoring record of 24 in 23 games.

The move, however, had precluded him from adding to his 39 England caps under the Rugby Football Union’s selection policy and there had been speculation he could be lured back to the Premiership.

Sale director of Rugby Steve Diamond said: “Chris is obviously a world-class signing. Chris wanted to return to this country to fulfil his potential with England again, and we thought that he’d fit in well here.

“He’s a multi-talented, superb professional who has experienced the benefit of the successful culture at Saracens.”

Ashton, who had previously been out of favour with England coach Eddie Jones, made no mention of international ambitions himself.

He said: “In Toulon, I’ve added to the experience I gained at Saracens. There are many players at Sale Sharks with whom I’m looking forward to playing.

“I’m not coming to rest on my laurels. I feel I’ve got a lot of Rugby left in me and would like to make an impact and help to take the club back to their winning ways of 2006.”

Toulon confirmed that Ashton also had family reasons for wishing to return to England.

A statement read: “At the request of the player, Rugby Club Toulonnais decided to release Chris Ashton from the two years remaining of his contract.

“The English player was no longer in psychological condition to remain in France, and therefore with RCT, because of important family problems.

“RCT wishes Chris Ashton good luck in pursuing his sporting career.”

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Wasps coach Dai Young predicts a bright future for Georgia international Zurabi Zhvania

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Dai Young expects Georgian prop Zurabi Zhvania to be a big hit in the Premiership

Wasps Rugby director Dai Young has predicted a bright future for Georgia international Zurabi Zhvania in the Premiership.

Prop Zhvania has agreed a deal to join Wasps ahead of the new season, which starts next month.

The 26-year-old has spent the last six years with French Top 14 club Stade Francais, and won 34 caps for Georgia.

Zhvania joins a crop of new arrivals at Wasps for next term, following players like Brad Shields, Lima Sopoaga and Kieran Brookes to the Ricoh Arena.

Young said: “We have been tracking ‘Zura’ for a couple of seasons and are really pleased to finally get him on board.

“He is an experienced player, despite still being in his mid-20s, who I expect to bring plenty to our front row.

“The timing of this is also good, since both Matt Mullan and Simon McIntyre are currently recuperating from long-term injuries.

“We look forward to his arrival in Coventry and to working with him in the months ahead.”

Zhvania added: “I have big ambitions in the game, and I believe I can achieve these with Wasps both at Premiership and European level.

“They play a very attractive style of Rugby which I believe suits my game and will bring out the best in me.”

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UAE Rugby Federation’s Impact Beyond project gains momentum as bond with Ministry of Education develops

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The growth of rugby in the UAE among local children continues following the delivery of 800 balls to various schools in the country.

The UAE Rugby Federation’s Impact Beyond project gains more momentum as the federation and the Ministry of Education (MoE) strengthen their partnership, which will allow the sport to reach more school-aged Emirati children.

This bond has been strengthened through the collaboration for the federation’s Get Into Rugby initiative and highly successful Player Pathway Programme (PPP), supported by HSBC, which has been introduced into the school sports curriculum for Cycles 4 through 11.

Previously, the GIR programme was delivered to girls and boys in Cycles 9 through 11 with the 2017/2018 season seeing an impressive 17,000 girls and 13,000 boys introduced to the game in Emirati schools across the UAE.

“We are extremely pleased to have achieved this season’s performance goals as set by our board and the ministry” said Salman Hady, vice

chairman of the UAE RF and chairman of the development committee.

“It is incredibly rewarding for us to see the number of Emirati girls and boys participating in and enjoying our sport, and we are delighted to be able to take the game into five additional cycles.

“We extend our sincere gratitude to both the ministry and to HSBC whose support and commitment has made this possible.”

The federation recently presented the MoE with 800 rugby balls to be used in next season’s PPP. The handover of the balls was made at the MoE offices and was attended by Hady, UAE RF CEO Hamdan Suliman; rugby development manager Sami Smara, MoE director of health and physical fitness Aisha Al Siri, Ahmed Abdulrahman of the MoE’s schools sports department and Peter Moore, programme manager for physical and health education.

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