Sale Sharks have won the race to sign England international Manu Tuilagi. The 29-year-old British and Irish Lion has agreed a deal with the club until the end of the 2020/21 Gallagher Premiership season, and joins with immediate effect.

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Tuilagi had been on the hunt for a new club since ending his 11-year stay with Leicester Tigers.

The centre was one of a number of high-profile players to reject new, cut-price contracts with Leicester recently. The club are expecting to lose £5m due to the coronavirus pandemic lockdown and have made more than 30 staff redundant.

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As a result the Tigers squad had been asked to accept reduced wages by way of new deals, albeit with an in-built ‘mechanism through which a proportion of forgone earnings could be reclaimed when the Club returns to profitability.’

Tuilagi was believed to have attracted interest from France and Japan, but has instead opted to stay in the Premiership by joining Sale, where he will become part of one of the heaviest midfield partnerships in the league.

His decision to remain in the Premiership allows Tuilagi to keep his Test career alive by remaining eligible for selection for England.

The 17-stone Samoan-born powerhouse has 43 England caps and will link up with the Sharks at their Carrington Training base today (July 13) after being released by Leicester Tigers last week.

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Tuilgai, who joined the Leicester Tigers Academy at 15, follows in the footsteps of his older brother Andy who spent three seasons at Sale Sharks between 2008 and 2011.

“We contacted Manu’s agent and Leicester Tigers last week to discuss the player’s current position,” said Sale’s Director of Rugby Steve Diamond.

“After discussions on Friday, all parties – Leicester Tigers, Manu Tuilagi and Sale Sharks – agreed that the player was a free agent and was able to enter into negotiations with another club.

“Manu will be a fantastic commercial and playing addition to our squad and I am looking forward to seeing him join up with the lads at Carrington this week.”

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Sale currently trail Premiership leaders Exeter by five points, with the suspended season on track to resume in August.

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