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Fit-again Manu Tuilagi at No12 as Sale and Northampton name teams

By Liam Heagney
(Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)

England powerhouse Manu Tuilagi will play his first rugby match in 16 weeks after Sale named him to start in their Gallagher Premiership opener at home to Northampton on Friday night. The appearance versus the Saints is his first run since the May 20 win at Wasps which was followed a fortnight later by the decision that he would undergo a knee operation rather than tour Australia with his country.


A Sale statement read: “Manu Tuilagi is fit after knee surgery, Tom O’Flaherty makes his first league start and Josh Beaumont returns to the matchday squad for the first time in over a year as Alex Sanderson names his team for the opening Premiership clash of the 2022/23 season.

“Tuilagi lines up alongside Sam James in the centre as the Sale director of rugby opts for a mix of power and guile against Phil Dowson’s Saints. Despite the absence of England prop Bevan Rodd, Alex is able to call on a front row full of experience for the season opener with Si McIntyre and Nick Schonert lining up either side of hooker Akker van der Merwe.

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“With Jonny Hill still unavailable following his exploits with England in the summer, Matt Postlethwaite gets his chance to stake a claim for a regular spot in the second row alongside Cobus Wiese. And in the back row, captain Ben Curry starts at openside flanker with a double helping of du Preez twins for company. Jean-Luc starts at blindside with twin Daniel at number 8.

“Raffi Quirke and new signing George Ford are still recovering from injury, so Gus Warr starts at scrum-half and Robert du Preez takes the No10 shirt. Outside them, Tuilagi returns alongside James, with new boy O’Flaherty and Tom Roebuck on the wings. Luke James starts at full-back.


“The replacements bench is an exciting mix of youth and experience. Front row cover comes from Tommy Taylor, Ross Harrison and Coenie Oosthuizen and they are joined by Jono Ross and fans’ favourite Beaumont. The backs are covered by new signing Joe Simpson, and academy graduates Tom Curtis and Arron Reed.”

Northampton’s team announcement statement read: “Director of rugby Phil Dowson has named his side for the Gallagher Premiership opener this weekend, with summer signings Lukhan Salakaia-Loto and Angus Scott-Young set to make their full debuts at Sale.


“Fraser Dingwall will lead out the visitors as captain and lines up in the midfield alongside Matt Proctor, with Courtnall Skosan (who scored eleven Premiership tries last term), Ollie Sleightholme, and Tom Collins named in the back three.

“James Grayson will look to control the game from fly-half, while Alex Mitchell starts in the No9 jersey having starred the last time Northampton met Sale – scoring a try and making 73 metres with two clean breaks and four defenders beaten.

“Up front, Salakaia-Loto makes his first competitive start for Saints in the engine room, with Alex Coles also packing down in the tight five behind an experienced front row of Alex Waller, Mike Haywood and Paul Hill.

“Scott-Young is named at blindside flanker in Northampton’s back row for his first taste of Premiership action, as Aaron Hinkley lines up on the other side of the scrum and Juarno Augustus (statistically the most destructive carrier of any forward in the Premiership, Top 14, URC and Super Rugby last season with a gain line success rate of 75 per cent) rounds off the line-up in the No8 jersey.


“Amongst the replacements, there is room for England full-back George Furbank while there are more competitive Saints debuts in store for tighthead prop Alfie Petch and flanker Sam Graham if they enter the action from the bench.”

SALE SHARKS: 15. Luke James; 14. Tom Roebuck, 13. Sam James, 12. Manu Tuilagi, 11. Tom O’Flaherty; 10. Robert du Preez, 9. Gus Warr; 1. Simon McIntyre, 2. Akker van der Merwe, 3. Nick Schonert, 4. Cobus Wiese, 5. Matt Postlethwaite, 6. Jean-Luc du Preez, 7. Ben Curry (capt), 8. Daniel du Preez. Reps: 16. Tommy Taylor, 17. Ross Harrison, 18. Coenie Oosthuizen, 19, Josh Beaumont, 20. Jono Ross, 21. Joe Simpson, 22. Tom Curtis, 23. Arron Reed.

NORTHAMPTON SAINTS: 15. Tom Collins; 14. Ollie Sleightholme, 13. Matt Proctor, 12. Fraser Dingwall (capt), 11. Courtnall Skosan; 10. James Grayson, 9. Alex Mitchell; 1. Alex Waller, 2. Mike Haywood, 3. Paul Hill, 4. Lukhan Salakaia-Loto, 5. Alex Coles, 6. Angus Scott-Young, 7. Aaron Hinkley, 8. Juarno Augustus. Reps: 16. Sam Matavesi, 17. Emmanuel Iyogun, 18. Alfie Petch, 19. Alex Moon, 20. Sam Graham, 21. Tom James, 22. Tom Litchfield, 23. George Furbank.


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