Sale Sharks have signed England and British and Irish Lions lock Jonny Hill from fellow Premiership side Exeter Chiefs from the 2022-23 season.
Hill is Exeter’s second exit announced on Monday after fellow lock Sam Skinner was signed for next term by Edinburgh.
The 27-year-old has turned out 108 times for Exeter and scored 30 times.
“He’s a player who knows how to win and what it takes to grind out those big games,” said Sale boss Alex Sanderson.
He added: “That sort of experience is invaluable. His on-field qualities speak for themselves but what sets him apart for me is that he’s a genuinely good bloke and will no doubt add to the environment and culture that we have here.”
Hill has won nine England caps and played alongside Sale quartet Bevan Rodd, Tom Curry, Raffi Quirke and Manu Tuilagi during this year’s autumn internationals.
He was one of four Chiefs players to receive a call-up for the Lions’ tour of South Africa this summer, but did not feature in any of the three Tests.
“The journey that I have been on with the Chiefs has been unbelievable. The player that arrived all those years ago to the player that will leave at the end of the season are two completely different things,” Hill told Exeter’s website.
“Since the moment I arrived, everyone at the club, the supporters, the city itself, they’ve all made me feel so welcome. To decide to move on has been one of the hardest decisions I’ve ever had to make, but sometimes good things have to come to an end.”
Hill is Sale’s second big-name signing for next season, having already announced England fly-half George Ford will be joining from Leicester.
Exeter impacted by salary cap
Analysis – BBC Sport’s Brent Pilnick
Jonny Hill’s move to Sale is the second big shock in one day for Exeter after losing homegrown Scotland forward Sam Skinner to Edinburgh.
Exeter boss Rob Baxter has made no secret of the challenge he faces in trying to keep within the new salary cap of £5m, and with internationals such as Luke Cowan-Dickie, Henry Slade, Stuart Hogg, Jonny Gray, Sam Simmonds and Jack Nowell still on the books, something clearly had to give.
In Hill, Sale have acquired a player who has blossomed from being deemed surplus to requirements at Gloucester to one of the best locks in Europe. He has become Maro Itoje’s first-choice partner for England and was a tourist with the British and Irish Lions this summer.
Exeter will have some budget from the loss of Skinner and Hill’s wages to strengthen for next season, but there will no doubt be more emphasis on their crop of young loose forwards such as Christ Tshiunza, Rus Tuima and Richard Capstick.
And with Premiership clubs being reduced to just one highly-paid player whose wages sit outside of the cap from next season we can expect Exeter – and other clubs – to be forced to make tough decisions about who they have to reluctantly let go and who they can develop into the next big thing.