Sale Sharks have appointed former England flanker Alex Sanderson as their new director of rugby.

The 41-year-old returns to the club where he made more than 100 appearances as a player between 1998 and 2004.

Sanderson departs Saracens as forwards and defence coach to succeed Steve Diamond at Sale, who stepped down in December after a decade in the role.

“The opportunity to come back home and achieve something special was just too good to turn down,” he said.

Sanderson, who joins Sale on an undisclosed-length deal, was a coach at Sarries for more than 15 years after a back injury forced him to retire in 2005.

His first match in charge is set to be against Leicester on Saturday, 30 January.

Sale are fourth in the Premiership after four wins from their first six matches this season, including back-to-back victories under interim head coach Paul Deacon.

Sanderson arrives with an impressive coaching CV from his time with Saracens, including helping cultivate their trademark “Wolfpack” defence which won them three European Champions Cups and five Premiership titles in the past decade.

“It’s with a heavy heart after a month of introspection and consideration I would like to take this opportunity to say thank you and farewell to my Saracens family members,” he said.

“Moving on was a decision I had to think long and hard about.

“But I felt the time was right to start a new chapter. I learnt so much during my time there, achieved a lot and made some friends for life.

“Ultimately, the chance to put my own stamp on things and create a legacy at Sale and for rugby in the north west is what really excited me.”

As a player, Sanderson won five England caps, scoring a try on his debut against Romania in November 2001.