Steve Diamond has revealed that injured Manu Tuilagi’s road to recovery was delayed by a positive test for Covid-19, one of 27 people affected at Sale last month, adding that he is hoping to unveil two new signings from overseas next week for his pack, including a replacement for sidelined lock Lood de Jager.

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Diamond spoke to the media on Tuesday for the first time in six weeks since Sale’s 2019/20 campaign came to an abrupt halt, a major virus outbreak resulting in the cancellation of their match versus Worcester.

That call-off prevented them from reaching the semi-finals but they are now just days away from their Friday night start to the 2020/21 Premiership with the visit of Northampton to the AJ Bell Stadium.

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Wallabies react to New Zealand’s loss to Australia

Asked if he had an update on the projected returns of de Jager and Tuilagi from their respective shoulder and knee injuries, Sale boss Diamond said: “On my sheet in front of me, I think I have got March and April. Certainly for Lood.

“Manu, because he was Covid positive, he had to wait a couple of weeks after that Northampton game (on September 29), but he is in every day in rehab. It will be good to get him got and back playing again.”

Diamond, who was delighted to have Sale “exonerated” from wrongdoing in their coronavirus outbreak, admitted he was poised to now unveil two new signing from overseas, an international back row and a very tall second row – with one of them coming from South Africa, a popular recruitment ground for Sale in recent times.

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“Simon (Orange), Ged (Mason) and I have spoken and we are actively looking at bringing a couple of players in at the minute, a lock to cover Lood and another potential back row forward. So we are always looking.

“One’s an international and the lock isn’t an international. The lock is nearly 7ft tall and I need somebody big for the lineout. Once we can get the visa situation sorted out I’ll announce. I won’ be pulling rabbits out of a hat, probably next Tuesday we can announce that.

“Why would your guess be they are South Africans? You’re right on one and you’re wrong on the other. We’ll get the visas done and we’ll move forward,” he adding that 2020/21 will be a campaign where Sale will reply on their academy resources.

“We feel it will be a season of attrition and our academy will be utilised enormously this year. The current stats are we produce more Premiership players has as an academy and those stats will improve this year as there will be more used definitely.”

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