Sale director of rugby Steve Diamond plans to recruit several world-class players after missing out on Europe but insists disgraced Ireland duo Paddy Jackson and Stuart Olding will not be among them.
The Sharks this week distanced themselves from moves for Jackson and Olding, who were sacked by Ulster earlier this year, when it emerged that a major club sponsor had raised strong objections.
Diamond reiterated his stance after his side’s 35-13 home defeat to Leicester.
“We will bring players with international experience to the club but no the Irish lads aren’t coming before anybody asks,” Diamond said.
“They are looking for jobs, we’re looking for players so we’re always going to be linked. It’s what happens.
“With our ability behind the scene to catch the other 11 teams up in what they spend, world-class players are on the radar.
“It’s a recruitment job now for the next three or four months.”
Diamond confirmed that South African number eight Jono Ross will captain the Sharks in 2018-19 and tipped him for England honours.
Ross, 27, who joined Sale from Stade Francais a year ago, was born in Johannesburg but qualifies for England through an Essex-born grandmother and is being monitored by coach Eddie Jones ahead of the summer tour to South Africa.
“England do have a plethora of players in his position but, if it’s not this summer, I don’t think it will be too long before the doorbell rings for Jono,” Diamond said.
Ross, who has also captained South African Currie Cup side Blue Bulls, admits he would not hesitate to play for England.
“My focus has been solely at Sale but, if anything came off the back of that, it would be great,” he said.
Ross could not hide his disappointment after Sale’s four-try defeat to Leicester meant they missed out on a top-six finish in the Aviva Premiership, which would have earned them a Champions Cup place.
“We’re massively disappointed,” he said. “We were not good enough today.
“We need to learn from these pressure games. Today was a really a cup final and they handled that better. Hopefully next year we can come back stronger.”
England fly-half George Ford scored 20 points with a try, three conversions, two penalties and a drop-goal to earn the praise of coach Matt O’Connor.
“That was as good a game as he’s had in a Tigers shirt this time around,” said O’Connor, who made the decision to bring Ford back to the club after he returned to Leicester a year ago.
“He had some games like that when we were both here last but that’s the best he’s played, he was phenomenal.”
Winger Jonah Holmes went over for two tries and flanker Mike Williams also crossed as the Tigers avoided a third successive defeat to end a disappointing season in fifth place and clinch a Champions Cup spot.
“It was brilliant, the boys played really well ,” said O’Connor, who was not worried about his team’s slender 7-6 interval lead.
“They knew what we had to do to make sure we were playing in the Champions Cup and that’s what we’re about.
“That’s what the club stands for and it’s what we had to deliver today.”