Sale Sharks can confirm that homegrown centre Sam James will leave the club this summer after playing almost 250 games for the club. 

Lifelong Sharks fan Sam, 29, joined Sale in 2012 and made his first team debut a year later, seven years after he was a ball boy for the club at Edgeley Park. 

Usually deployed at centre, but equally happy at fly-half or full-back, Sam quickly became known for his handling and ball skills, as well as his kicking game and his powerful left foot.  

His Sharks form led to international recognition as he was called up to the senior England squad by Eddie Jones for the 2017 summer tour of Argentina. 

In the 2018/19 season he was the only player across the entire Premiership to play every single minute of the season for his club.  

And the following year Sam, whose brother Luke is also part of Alex Sanderson’s squad, was picked by tv pundits in the Gallagher Premiership BT Sport Dream Team. 

In an open letter to the Sharks fans, Sam said: “I’ve grown up supporting this club and to even play one game was genuinely a dream come true. I’ll always be a Sale Sharks supporter and the decision to leave has been a really tough one for not just me, but my whole family. But the time is right to take on a new challenge. 

“It’s so tough to leave a brilliant group of lads behind. I’ve played with some amazing players but this group is as good as any. I’ve built up some amazing relationships and I know they’re friendships that will continue wherever we’re all playing. 

“I’m leaving a club that’s really on the up and I’ve got no doubt that we’ll go on to win plenty of trophies in the next few years. I can’t wait to watch it all as a fan. The club has changed so much in the years I’ve been here and we’ve become a proper powerhouse. I’m so proud to have played a small part in that.” 

Sharks Director of Rugby Alex Sanderson said: “You can’t underestimate how grateful we are to Sam, as a coaching group, for his commitment and devotion to the club. 

“He’s played 236 times for this club, scored 194 points and he’s been at the heart of everything good about this club for the past 12 years. The stats speak for themselves but his impact on and off the field has been so much more than that. 

“He is and will probably always be, the heartbeat of this club and he’ll always be welcome back here. We totally understand his reasons for wanting to go and find a new adventure and a new challenge, but he will be deeply, deeply missed and always loved by Sharks fans, coaches and players alike.” 

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