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'Extremely dangerous': Red card ruins Manu Tuilagi's England hopes

By Liam Heagney
Manu Tuilagi's red-carded foul at Northampton (Photo by Alex Davidson/Getty Images for Sale Sharks)

England hopes that Manu Tuilagi could show top form this weekend for Sale and force his way back into the match day selection debate for the Guinness Six Nations round three game at Wales have been dashed by his 14th-minute foul play red card at Northampton.

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Having appeared in all four Autumn Nations Series games when Eddie Jones was last in charge of England in November, Tuilagi was surplus to requirement when new head coach Steve Borthwick named his teams to play Scotland and Italy in recent weeks.

This resulted in Tuilagi being omitted from this past week’s 25-man training squad, freeing him to return to Sale and play in their Gallagher Premiership match on Saturday at Franklin’s Gardens.

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Sale director of rugby Alex Sanderson reported in midweek that Tuilagi was simmering about his England situation. “Manu is all smiles but underneath I sense a simmering and he definitely wants to show the powers that be that they made the wrong decision in not selecting him. I would say he has a point to prove,” said Sanderson.

It turned out that Tuilagi was more than simmering, unfortunately. Carrying the ball in the opposition’s 22 in the 14th minute, the midfielder found himself getting tackled low by Fin Smith.

With Tommy Freeman then moving in to add to the tackle in an upright position, Tuilagi – who was carrying the ball with his left arm – extended his right arm upwards towards the Northampton winger and the fend-off connection was a red-carded foul. Here is how the conversation unfolded between referee Ian Tempest and TMO Claire Hodnett, with live TV comment from BT Sport pundit Austin Healey.

Hodnett: We need to review the actions of 12 red.

Tempest: Time off, we are looking at potential foul play.

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Hodnett: It’s a leading elbow.

Healey: That is not good, that is the carrying arm. That is a red card… he actually explodes into it. It’s a red card, nothing else.

Tempest: Do we have foul play here? Yes, we do because the arm is away from the body. It’s a forearm with force, extremely dangerous to the neck area. That’s a red card.

Hodnett: I agree, I absolutely agree.

Tempest then explained his decision to Sale skipper Jono Ross before sending off Tuilagi. “What we have is arm away from the body and direct to head with force, it’s a red card.”

Healey: It’s clear he wanted to make an impact but it just got the better of him. He knows exactly. When he sees that on the screen he knows exactly what is going to happen to him.

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After getting the red card, Tuilagi apologised to Freeman before taking a seat in the stand near his DoR Sanderson, who consoled him. He will now appear at a midweek disciplinary hearing where a minimum three-game ban is likely.

That would make him unavailable for the round three and round four England matches against Wales and France, as well as the in-between Premiership match for Sale against Saracens on March 5.

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