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'He's well primed': Tuilagi back for Sale after last week's rest

By Liam Heagney
(Photo by Bob Bradford/CameraSport via Getty Images)

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Manu Tuilagi has been recalled to the Sale XV for their Heineken Champions Cup quarter-final away to Racing on Sunday but he won’t be clashing with Virimi Vakatawa in the midfield as the French club’s backline powerhouse has been benched. Skipper Henry Chavancy will instead be the inside centre directly playing opposite Tuilagi, with Gael Fickou at outside centre where he will come up against Sale No13 Robert du Preez. 

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Having starred versus Bristol in the round of 16 second leg at Ashton Gate, Tuilagi was rested from the only match his club have played since then, last week’s Gallagher Premiership win over Newcastle. 

That layoff has given Tuilagi a three-week run into this European quarter-final and Sale director Alex Sanderson can’t wait for his England midfielder to get going. “He is well primed. Manu is an English-Samoan thoroughbred. 

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“It was purely conservational on Manu’s part last week, just to keep him fresh and not risk injury and make sure his loading is up there. He is better than he would have been if he had played last week.”

Sale have also included their two South African World Cup winners, Faf de Klerk and Lood de Jager, to start along with recent England skipper Tom Curry in a game that will see Scotland’s Finn Russell stationed as the Racing orchestrator at out-half. 

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Sanderson is confident the trip to Paris is a mission possible for Sale. “Character, fortunately for me, this team have in abundance. Our chance to be able to show who we are in terms of our character is something that is highly motivating. They have shown their best qualities and played some of their best rugby when they have had their backs against the wall and gone into a hostile environment where we are the underdogs. It’s the same again.

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“I don’t think Racing are the type of team that crumbles. You will get out of them in the 80th minute what you get out of them in the first. It’s down to your own resilience and resolve. Are you able to handle one of those lightning bolts they are able to chuck, this team, when it could be against the run of play or totally out of the blue?

“How are you going to react to that? That’s the challenge for us and our ability to stay in the fight, despite what they throw at us, is going to be key and not the other way around.”

RACING: 15. Max Spring; 14. Teddy Thomas, 13. Gael Fickou, 12. Henry Chavancy (capt), 11. Juan Imhoff; 10. Finn Russell, 9. Nolann Le Garrec; 1. Hassane Kolingar, 2. Camille Chat, 3. Cedate Gomes Sa, 4. Baptiste Chouzenoux, 5. Anton Bresler, 6. Wenceslas Lauret, 7. Ibrahim Diallo, 8. Yoan Tanga. Reps: 16. Teddy Baubigny, 17. Eddy Ben Arous, 18. Trevor Nyakane, 19. Bernard Le Roux, 20. Baptiste Pesenti, 21. Maxime Machenaud, 22. Antoine Gibert, 23. Virimi Vakatawa.

SALE: 15. Luke James; 14. Thomas Roebuck, 13. Robert du Preez, 12. Manu Tuilagi, 11. Simon Hammersley; 10. AJ MacGinty, 9. Faf de Klerk; 1. Bevan Rodd, 2. Akker van der Merwe, 3. Nick Schonert, 4. Jean-Luc du Preez, 5. Lood de Jager, 6. Jono Ross (capt), 7. Tom Curry, 8. Dan du Preez. Reps: 16. Ewan Ashman, 17. Simon McIntyre, 18. Coenie Oosthuizen, 19. Jacobus Wiese, 20. Ben Curry, 21. Fergus Warr, 22. Sam James, 23. Rohan Janse van Rensburg.

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