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'I'd love Manu to get almighty shot off on Radradra at some point'

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

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Sale boss Alex Sanderson is salivating over the prospect of two of the world’s best midfielders – Manu Tuilagi and Semi Radradra of Bristol – going at it over the next two weekends in the Heineken Champions Cup. Tuilagi returned to club action last weekend following his Guinness Six Nations injury setback and his comeback was best remembered for the scintillating tackle he put in on Saracens’ Ben Earl. 


It was an impact that has left Sanderson eager to see more with inside centre Tuilagi going up against outside centre Radradra this Saturday in the midfield at the AJ Bell Stadium and the following Friday in the return leg at Ashton Gate. 

“That cliche, unstoppable force meets immovable object, springs to mind,” said Sanderson when quizzed by RugbyPass on his thoughts about Tuilagi encountering Radradra with a European quarter-final place at stake for their respective clubs. 

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“It will be brilliant. That is why these games are great because you have to play all your best players. Radradra is superb. I still think there is more in him, I don’t think we have seen the best of him since he has come back from injury. He was almost unstoppable pre that and these are the games that these big players get up for. 

“That’s him and we know what he is about, his tackle-breaking and his offloading abilities. In attack, he is very dangerous wheeras I feel Manu ir probably good on both sides (of the ball). He is great at getting over the gain line but he is horrible to play against. 


“You don’t even see him coming sometimes. Ben Earl didn’t see him coming. The way he got up from that ruck and ran back around andf filled in and came straight off the line and rolled into that defensive line, his timing and his ability to see a play as it happens is nothing short of brilliant. So yes, I would love Manu to get an almighty shot off on Radradra at some point. That is the best way you stop offloads and get him going backwards. Let’s all cross our fingers for that occurring some Saturday.”


Last Friday’s second-half run off the Sale bench against Saracens was the first outing for Tuilagi in seven weeks as he was unable to take his place in the England lineup after getting selected to start against Wales in the February 26 Guinness Six Nations clash. 

A hamstring tweak was the reason for the cry-off and at the time Sanderson suggested there would likely be a meeting between Sale and the England medics after the championship to try and best plot an injury-free future for the Tuilagi. 

That meeting hasn’t happened but England boss Eddie Jones texted Sanderson on Tuesday to ascertain an update on the midfielder. The hope is he will come through the upcoming European games unscathed and reach the Premiership bye week Sale have later this month still going strong following his latest recovery.

“We are still figuring out how best we can manage,” admitted the Sale boss. “If we get him through these next few weeks then we will probably have a pretty good blueprint for what his week looks like. It probably pays just to see how it goes the next few weeks but we are confident we can manage him through. 


“We are going to be quite stringent in terms of game time this week as well for him, not just see how it goes. Just have a real plan around that. But Eddie texted me Tuesday morning and there is still regular interaction there. It is very easy to pick up the phone and have that conversation. It doesn’t have to be anything formal, it’s when the opportunity arises.”

Asked how Tuilagi has been looking on his latest Sale comeback, Sanderson added: “He seems more mobile than he was. He has always had that in him, he has always had that ability to bang in him but he shuddered. 

“Ben Earl was in one spot and then half a second later he was four metres somewhere else. It was like Manu teleported him. Great to watch. We watched it again on Monday because that part of our game we are very happy with. He just seems really bouncy, agile, better for it after losing the weight. That is part of his management to keep him on the field.”


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