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Manu Tuilagi set to play his first Sale match in eight months while Bristol call on Thacker who has been missing since October

By Liam Heagney

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Powerhouse England midfielder Manu Tuilagi is set to play his first match in eight months after Alex Sanderson named him on the Sale bench for Friday night’s Gallagher Premiership home game against league leaders Bristol, who have picked Harry Thacker on their bench.

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Tuilagi has been on the sidelines since last September’s ACL tear suffered at Northampton. While Sale have been riding high in the league table, the absence of Tuilagi cost England during the recent Guinness Six Nations while it also meant he wasn’t a consideration when Warren Gatland announced his Lions squad three weeks ago. 

However, many people feel he will yet wind up on the tour to South Africa provided he proves his fitness and quickly finds his form in the final weeks of the league season in England. “For me, I’d back him to go on the Lions tour,” said Sale boss Sanderson earlier this week about a player who has reportedly been champing at the bit in training. 

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Scotland’s Ali Price on the moment he learned that he was a 2021 Lions pick

Manu is in great shape. He looks massive. Not out of shape massive, just strong as a bull. The lads did some live tackling and he basically gave them a bit of a bump. I had to stop him from running because he was just running through them. It’s really exciting to see. He looked scary out there. Scarily powerful.”

Winners last time out at Bath, Sale have made four changes to their starting XV for host the Bears: Luke James for Simon Hammersley, Connor Doherty for Sam Hill, Ben Curry for James Phillips and Daniel du Preez for Jean-Luc du Preez. 

Bristol, meanwhile, have found a place on their bench for Thacker, the fit-again hooker who last played in when they defeated Toulon last October in the 2019/20 Challenge Cup final in France. Pat Lam has made three changes to the starting team that defeated Gloucester last week with Piers O’Conor, Jake Woolmore and Fitz Harding included in place of Siale Piutau, Yann Thomas and Steven Luatua. 

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SALE: 15. Luke James; 14. Byron McGuigan, 13. Sam James, 12. Connor Doherty, 11. Marland Yarde; 10. AJ MacGinty, 9. Faf de Klerk; 1. Bevan Rodd, 2. Akker van der Merwe, 3. Coenie Oosthuizen, 4. Cobus Wiese, 5. Jean-Luc du Preez, 6. Ben Curry, 7. Tom Curry (capt.) 8. Daniel du Preez. Reps: 16. Curtis Langdon 17. Valery Morozov, 18. James Harper, 19. James Phillips, 20. Cameron Neild, 21. Raffi Quirke, 22. Robert du Preez, 23. Manu Tuilagi.

BRISTOL: 15. Charles Piutau; 14. Luke Morahan, 13. Semi Radradra, 12. Piers O’Conor, 11. Max Malins; 10. Callum Sheedy, 9. Andy Uren; 1. Jake Woolmore, 2. Jake Kerr, 3. Kyle Sinckler, 4. Dave Attwood, 5. Chris Vui (capt), 6. Fitz Harding, 7. Ben Earl, 8. Nathan Hughes. Reps: 16. Harry Thacker, 17. Yann Thomas, 18. Nahuel Tetaz Chaparro, 19. Ed Holmes, 20. Jake Heenan, 21. Tom Kessell, 22. Ioan Lloyd, 23. Siale Piutau.

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Manu Tuilagi set to play his first Sale match in eight months while Bristol call on Thacker who has been missing since October

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