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'Every last scrap': Sale explain why Tuilagi is ready for England

By Liam Heagney
(Photo by Jan Kruger/Getty Images for Sale Sharks)

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Sale have explained why they believe the time was right for Manu Tuilagi to return to the Test fold with England, the powerhouse midfielder getting called up by Eddie Jones for the fallow week’s training camp in London. The fit-again powerhouse midfielder had played just 80 minutes across two Gallagher Premiership appearances in recent weeks for the Sharks. 

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He came off the bench on February 6 at Harlequins, playing as a sub for the closing 30 minutes at The Stoop in what was his first game following an eleven-week lay-off with the hamstring he damaged when scoring for England in their November win over South Africa.

Tuilagi then followed this cameo with a try-scoring start in a 50-minute display last Saturday at home versus Worcester and it was enough to convince Jones to put through the calls on Monday to get the centre back in the England mix for the five-day camp this week that is already underway in London.

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It was last week at his weekly media briefing that Sanderson spoke about how happy Tuilagi was following his previous call with Jones where it was decided it would be best for the 30-year-old to continue ramping things up with Sale rather than be called into the England squad for the round two Guinness Six Nations game away to Italy.

A call with a very different emphasis unfolded on Monday, though, and it left Tuilagi packing his bags in Manchester and reintroducing himself to the England fold this week ahead of the February 27 round three match at home to Wales.   

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“We are having a good time here at the moment, he is loving it,” said Sanderson about the recent return of Tuilagi to the Sale colours. “We are all enjoying it, enjoying this mini-resurgence (the Sharks have won their last four matches). It was bittersweet really because he wanted to keep cracking on here driving this but then we had a chat last night again [Monday] after we had one on the field and we just discussed that Manu is made for a bigger stage. 

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“His country needs him and I want him to down there with the same enthusiasm and the same energy that he has had here – and I know he will but you just have to shift, to reframe, shift your focus and reframe your mentality from what we were doing here and be the same influence down there. But he is very happy about it [the England recall].”

Before Tuilagi arrived in London on Tuesday the phone lines were busy between the England staff and their counterparts at Sale. “A call through Manu, a call through Eddie (was how he was picked) but the communication on the back of that was extensive and comprehensive and all-inclusive,” explained Sanderson about how it was agreed on Monday that Tuilagi is now ready for England.  

“So Eddie rang me up, our physios rang their physios, our S&C rang their S&C and there is a really good plan that is happening. We borrowed the (England) GPS over the last two weeks and we have given them what our recommendations are for his loading and what works for him in terms of treatment to keep him mobile and fresh. 

“I haven’t been in the job long but even with the experience back at Saracens, I haven’t been aware of anything this collaborative in the past over from player. I am really confident we are going to get it right.”

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Tuilagi has returned to the England fold at a fighting weight of 103kgs having shed even more kilos during his latest layoff. “He told me (he is) about 103. He is still big for a back, 103, it’s just not big for Manu. He has gone from 110 to 107 to now 103.”

Has that reduced size affected his power? “You can see his ability to snap in the tackle at that weight against Quins. There were two or three tackles and an inside shoulder where he has to adjust late and he still had that punch in him, real punch, and then when he got the ball at the weekend he is still running through and over people. 

“That was the one area (of worry about losing weight), is he still going to have that punch power. Evidently, he has had over the last two weeks.”

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