Sale’s top prospects to learn trade with relegated Leeds

LEEDS Carnegie’s relegation from the Premiership has resulted in them effectively becoming a development club for Sale Sharks.

In a move which could help the Headingley club make a swift return to the top flight next season, several emerging Sharks players will sign dual registration forms with their Roses rivals.

It is part of the agreement that saw England flanker Hendre Fourie move across the Pennines to Edgeley Park when Leeds’s exit from the top sphere was confirmed.

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Relegation for Leeds also signalled the exit of other high-profile players such as international forwards Steve Thompson and Marco Wentzel to Wasps, Kearnan Myall, Scott Mathie, Luther Burrell to Sale, Ceiron Thomas to Cornish Pirates, Alfie To’oala to La Rochelle and James Craig to Northampton.

Former Wigan Warriors rugby league centre Iain Thornley, 19, who joined the Sharks in October, is the first to sign dual registration forms.

On the deal with Sale, Leeds Carnegie chief executive Gary Hetherington commented: “This is an exciting partnership. We have certain requirements within our squad for this season and this arrangement allows us to bring in quality individuals who will fit in with our ethos.

“As well as this partnership, ourselves, Sale and Newcastle, as shareholders in Premiership Rugby, are looking to work together over the coming years to strengthen rugby union in the north and work with the authorities to nurture and develop the base of talent and support for the game that exists in the north.”

While in the Premiership, Leeds enjoyed similar partnerships with Doncaster and Rotherham.

Sharks executive director of sport Steve Diamond said: “We are really pleased to be announcing this tie up with Leeds. We now have a superb partner club where our young players can develop in a quality environment during the 2011-12 season.

“Players like Iain Thornley are the future of Sale but with a shortened A League programme of only five games, he might not have got as much game time as he needed this season. Iain needs to play games regularly now to learn the sport.

“The quality of rugby offered in the Championship is ideal for young players like Iain. The dual registration rules mean we can call the players back to Sale as required but the important factor is that they get to play week-in, week-out rugby at a high level which will accelerate their development.

“Once the World Cup is over, we will be looking to place more players at Leeds on loan or via dual registration as our squad will be boosted by the return of a number of internationals.

“That’s when I see this arrangement with Leeds really bearing fruit for both clubs but particularly for the players involved.”