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'Playing a fully-loaded international match needs building up to'

By Paul Smith
Manu Tuilagi is back to match fitness (Photo by Visionhaus/Getty Images)

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Sale director of rugby Alex Sanderson warned that England must handle prized asset Manu Tuilagi’s return with care after he played the final 30 minutes of his club’s Gallagher Premiership win over Harlequins.

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The powerhouse centre returned to the fray alongside South African World Cup winner Faf De Klerk who has also endured a long injury absence.

Tuilagi’s last action came during England’s Autumn Series campaign and with the Six Nations dominating the next six weeks, his club boss has cautioned against him being thrown straight back into international rugby.

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“Manu came through well but obviously playing in a fully-loaded international match from the start needs building up to,” he said.

“Manu is getting older and listening to his body more now so hopefully he will be able to handle what lies ahead.”

Sanderson was delighted that Sharks had got the monkey off their back with their first away win in the Gallagher Premiership since beating Bath in May with a convincing 36-14 win over the reigning champions Harlequins at the Stoop.

Tom Roebuck and Robert Du Preez both scored two tries, Ewan Ashman Sale’s other scorer, with AJ MacGinty adding a penalty and four conversions.

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Hugh Tizard and Tommy Allan scored Quins’ tries, with Allan converting both.

He said: “If you come down here and don’t believe in yourselves, you end up being a bit part as has happened many times in the past.

“We came down here with the intention of imposing our style of play more like a horror show than the Harlem Globetrotters.

“We’ve now won back-to-back games in the competition as we’ve now got a consistent squad and are finding a rich vein of form.

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“They had a few key players missing whereas we had most of our stars back in our line-up. We are still aiming for the play-offs as I believe we are that good and should be there.”

Harlequins head coach Tabai Matson accepted his side were convincingly beaten.

He said: “They were predictably physical and we thought we had a plan in place but we were second best in all facets of the game.

“We give two early tries with piggy-backs up the field by making a number of uncharacteristic errors.

“You can’t give them a 20-point start with the power that they had coming from their bench.

“The great thing about this competition is that there is no respite and we will have to get over this result in time for Saracens next week but it was a tough lesson for us.”

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