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Sale will seek talks with England fly-half George Ford in January

Sale will seek talks with George Ford in January after confirming their interest in recruiting the England fly-half.

Todd Blackadder, Bath's director of rugby, stated on Monday that Ford would be allowed to leave the Recreation Ground at the end of the season and the Sharks have leapt ahead of Leicester and Northampton in the race for his signature.

The 23-year-old was born in Oldham and has been linked with a move away from the west country from the moment his father Mike was sacked by Bath last summer.

Aviva Premiership regulations state that from January 1 he is permitted to talk to other clubs and Sale director of rugby Steve Diamond is hoping to open negotiations as soon as possible.

"We would be interested in anyone of George Ford's ability," Diamond told BBC North West Tonight.

"We've not had direct contact [with Bath or George], but when January 1 arrives and the transfer window opens we can start discussions if he fancies a chat."

Ford is regarded by England head coach Eddie Jones as a special talent capable of becoming the best fly-half in the world, while Blackadder has compared the 30-cap international to Dan Carter.

He has already ruled out the prospect of joining his dad at Toulon, the French club where Mike is now head coach, and his departure would incur a transfer fee due to the year left on his Bath contract.

Sale have endured a poor season since losing Danny Cipriani to Wasps during the summer, losing every match of their Champions Cup campaign and sinking to 10th in the Premiership, and Diamond is determined to strengthen his squad.

"Anyone who's watched us this year knows there are two or three positions that we're lacking," he said.

"We've got to go for world-class quality if we're to take the club where we want to over the next three to five years.

"The days of us bargain basement shopping have not completely gone, but we've got to get back the mid-2000s era of buying high-quality players, bringing them in and supplementing with home-grown players.

"We need four or five world-class players, I think, to compete."

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