Sale Sharks have put their marker down for next season with the completion of three signings ahead of their final Aviva Premiership game against London Wasps.
Director of rugby Steve Diamond confirmed forwards Michael Paterson, Kirill Kulemin and Charlie Walker-Blair will arrive at Barton next month, after several weeks of negotiations.
Kiwi-born number eight Paterson arrives as the current Cardiff Blues player of the year, and Diamond expressed his delight at securing his signature.
“All three are very important signings for us,” said Diamond.
“Michael has been outstanding for Cardiff and has been one of their key players over the past few seasons.
“Cardiff were very keen to retain him and he will be a really key addition to our pack next season.
“Though Michael has played at number eight predominantly this season for Cardiff, going forward I see him more as a lock for us.”
Formidable lock Kulemin is the second player to arrive from relegated side London Welsh, after versatile back Tom Arscott’s switch last month.
Diamond is confident in the 32-year-old’s ability, having coached him at close quarters during his time in charge of the Russian national team.
“In terms of Kirill I know him very well from working with him with the Russian national side,” said Diamond.
“He has played very well for London Welsh this season and has a huge physical presence.
“He also has massive experience from his time with Castres and he played very well against us too earlier this season.”
Diamond also said he had been a long admirer of Walker-Blair, having attempted to sign the 24-year-old from Exeter two years ago.
“As for Charlie, he is someone that we have had our eyes on for quite a while now,” said Diamond.
“He was out for a year with a knee injury but has totally recovered from that and has been playing really well with Jersey.
“He’s a really talented number six and is a really big, imposing lad and he will also add a lot to our pack.”
Paterson, eligible to play for Wales this summer, is seen as the perfect replacement for Scottish lock, Richie Gray, who is departing to French club Castres.
Blues were desperate to keep hold of Paterson, with the Welsh side offering him a three year contract, but the 27-year-old is thrilled to cross the border.
“I am very excited to be joining the Sale Sharks,” he said.
“My Grandfather was born in England and I am English qualified, so playing in the Premiership has always been an ambition of mine.
“Having met with the coaches, I am excited about the prospect of joining the side next year and look forward to doing my upmost to see the team competing in the Heineken Cup the following season.
“I would like to thank everyone at the Cardiff Blues, especially Peter Thomas for the last three years, but the time seemed right for a new challenge and I look forward to moving in the summer”.
Picture courtesy of salesharksrugbyclub, via YouTube, with thanks.