London Irish have signed England Under-20 captain Alex Gray on a two-year-contract from Newcastle Falcons - much to the disappointment of Falcons rugby boss Alan Tait.
Gray is a product of the Newcastle Falcons Academy, the club he joined after he finished his studies at Barnard Castle School.
And Tait, speaking to BBC Newcastle, said he felt a sense of betrayel - having recently also lost the likes of 'local lads' Kieran Brookes (prop) and Micky Young (scrumhalf) to Leicester Tigers.
"We put in a lot of time and effort bringing the kids through and look for loyalty," Tait said. "But agents have bigger and better things for them, or so they tell them."
Former Scotland back Tait added in conversation with BBC Newcastle: "Young players know what they get at Newcastle, great exposure, plenty of first team rugby - if they get that at 'big' clubs we'll just have to wait and see."
The England U20 star made 13 appearances for Newcastle this past season (2010/11), scoring a try on his Aviva Premiership debut against Harlequins at Kingston Park in March 2011.
Gray is primarily a No.8, but he can also play at openside. He becomes the second back row signing to join London Irish in a matter of weeks, following Canadian international Jebb Sinclair's signature.
"Alex is a player that we have kept a close eye on for a couple of years now. He is an exceptional athlete and has an impressive array of skills for a back row forward," commented London Irish head coach Toby Booth.
"He is continuously striving to improve as a player and has leadership skills beyond his years. He will be a great asset to London Irish."
Gray has captained England to Grand Slams at Under-16, Under-18 and Under-20 level.
Most recently, he skippered the England U20s to second place in the IRB Junior World Championships where they lost narrowly in the final to New Zealand 33-22. Overall, he started nine of the ten matches last season for England U20s - coming off the bench in the other game - and scoring seven tries in the process.
Speaking about his decision to join London Irish, Gray said: "I am very pleased to be joining London Irish. They play an exciting brand of rugby that I look forward to becoming a part of.
"Playing age-grade rugby with Jonathan Joseph, Kieran Low and Guy Armitage they have always spoken very highly of the set-up at Irish, so with that in mind I'm very much looking forward to joining up with the rest of the squad ahead of the 2011/12 season.
"I thoroughly enjoyed my time at Newcastle Falcons and wish the club all the best for the future."
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