Sale director of rugby Steve Diamond has stressed that the club “are not going to be derailed” following the departure of Chris Ashton.
The Sharks announced that Ashton was leaving with immediate effect on Monday, having reached a mutual agreement with the wing over the termination of his contract.
On Tuesday Diamond said there had been “a disagreement on how we want to play the game” with Ashton, adding: “He wants to do it one way, I want to do it another and that’s it, so end of story.”
Diamond, whose side are currently second in the Gallagher Premiership, said it had been a fairly amicable parting with Ashton, before adding: “We are not going to be derailed off where we have gone in three years.
“We have come from being a club that’s never been relegated but managed to finish sixth four times out of six or seven, spending 50 per cent of what everybody else has spent, and now we have got the resource and finance and commercial backing. We have got a model that works and people have to buy into it.
“And it always happens. No doubt by the end of the season somebody else will say ‘it’s not my cup of tea and I’m off’. But it’s just mid-season, and it’s a big name.”
Ashton joined Sale in July 2018 after one season at Toulon. The 32-year-old, who won the most recent of his 44 England caps in February 2019, has scored four tries in seven Premiership appearances this season.
Asked if it had been a difficult decision for him, Diamond said: “No. It was the right decision for Chris and for us.
PLAYER NEWS Chris Ashton to leave Sale Sharks with immediate effect.
— Sale Sharks🦈 (@SaleSharksRugby) March 2, 2020
“It’s rare that (a situation like this) happens mid-season, but there’s always an end point for anyone’s career with a club. You just have to deal with it.
“If people’s views don’t align then you might as well have a discussion about it. We didn’t need to wait until the end of the season to do it.”
Asked how he regarded Ashton’s time with Sale, Diamond said: “He scored tries, on the field fantastic.
“The job for me is keeping a balanced environment which isn’t always happy, because it’s not when you win, lose or draw, but 95 per cent of the time everybody is on the same wavelength.
“If somebody says ‘I don’t want to do it this way’ then you can try to work with them, which we have done, and if it doesn’t come that way then the best way for everybody…
“There’s a lot of enjoyment and fun. I know it’s professional but you get the best out of people if they are happy.
“If you are not happy in what you are doing then why not… At 4pm it’s not a prison. You don’t have to come back. That’s not being direct, that’s being honest.
“As we find, sometimes the more honest you are the more people have difficulty dealing with that. That’s as it is.”
Diamond emphasised Ashton’s departure was not for financial reasons and was not aware of links to Harlequins.
He added: “I didn’t know anything about that. Good luck to him, he’s a good player. If he can get a club at Harlequins, then fine.”
Diamond also said he feels Sale have a squad good enough to cope with one or two changes in personnel.
When contacted by the PA news agency, the sports management company representing Ashton declined to comment on the matter.