Tuilagi will start as Sale look to hit new heights in title charge

Manu Tuilagi will make first Sale start of the season following EIGHT months out with an achilles injury… with the England centre ready for crucial clash against play-off rivals Harlequins

  • Manu Tuilagi made his first appearance for eight months to help Sale beat Bristol
  • Tuilagi suffered an achilles injury whilst playing at Northampton last season
  • The 30-year-old believes they’re ‘building something special’ at Sale 
  • He described Sale director of rugby Alex Sanderson is a ‘world class coach’

After salsa-dancing and hiking back to fitness, Manu Tuilagi will make his first start of the season on Friday, reinforcing Sale’s ‘special’ mission to win the Premiership title again.

A week ago, the 30-year-old England centre made his first appearance for eight months — coming off the bench to help his club ambush league leaders Bristol at the AJ Bell Stadium. This time he lines up at inside centre with play-off rivals Harlequins in his sights.

Tuilagi joined Sale in a hurry last summer, after a contract dispute ended his decade of service at Leicester. As an emerging rookie, he was a try-scorer in the final when the Tigers last won the top domestic prize in 2013.

Manu Tuilagi is set to make his first start of the season after recovering from an achilles injury

Asked how much it would mean to claim another title, Tuilagi said: ‘It would be massive for all the boys, the staff and everyone building together. To win it would be the icing on the cake. To do it with this group of people would be so good.

‘We’re building something special and it’s an exciting time, but we’ve still got a long way to go. We’re doing nicely and we need to go again. Our focus is on Quins. They play some quality rugby.’

Tuilagi has had more than his fair share of injury setbacks and rehab ordeals but the recovery after damaging his achilles at Northampton last season turned out to be a bearable, unorthodox process.

‘We came up with some ideas to make sure it wasn’t just in the gym,’ he said. ‘We did a bit of hiking in the Peak District. There’s some beautiful scenery around there. I don’t really like going walking but by the end of it I really got into it.’

The 31-year-old sustained the achilles injury whilst playing at Northampton last season 

There were also salsa lessons, leading up to a performance for the rest of the Sale squad. Tuilagi came through that daunting assignment, but said: ‘I’ve not done salsa since I did the performance for the boys. I’ve been back in full training. Maybe when things open up again, I can have some more lessons.’

Asked if there might be an appearance on Strictly Come Dancing one day, he added: ‘No chance! I’ll keep that for home.’

Tuilagi has benefited from working under Sale’s highly-respected new director of rugby Alex Sanderson, who he called a ‘world-class coach’. The admiration is mutual.

Sanderson said: ‘It was brilliant to see someone that good, who has worked as hard as he has, get another chance to have a crack at the big stage. He’s still potentially got his best rugby in him. He raises performance levels in others.’

Tuilagi praised Sale director of rugby Alex Sanderson, describing him as a ‘world class coach’

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