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Sale statement: Manu Tuilagi to miss England tour to Australia

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

Sale have confirmed that Manu Tuilagi won’t be touring Australia with England in July despite recent projections that he was on track to make the trip. Having re-injured a hamstring during the recent Guinness Six Nations, the midfielder returned to action for his club in April and was involved in the international squad’s three-day training camp held by Eddie Jones last month in London.   

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At the time, Jones was fully confident that Tuilagi was shaping up nicely to be included by England to take on the Wallabies in their three-Test series, the coach commenting: “He was looking very fit and enthusiastic and he really wants to make an imprint in this Australian tour. Our job with Sale is to get him physically right and ready to go.”

Jones was speaking on May 17, the day after he had visited Tuilagi and the other England players at Sale prior to the start of the national training camp the following Sunday. That was a trip that delighted Sharks boss Alex Sanderson but their collective hopes that Tuilagi was on course for the tour have now been dashed. 

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A club statement on Thursday morning read: “Sale Sharks can confirm that Manu Tuilagi has undergone a routine procedure on his knee which will rule the 31-year-old out of this summer’s England tour to Australia.

“The club, in close consultation with England Rugby, have decided that a summer of rest and a full pre-season is the best course of action to ensure Manu is fit and available for Sale Sharks and England during a crucial year for both club and country. Everyone at the club wishes Manu all the best for his recovery and looks forward to seeing him at Carrington for the start of pre-season.”

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What has unfolded is a very different prognosis compared to the conversations some weeks ago when Jones and Jon Clarke, the England head of S&C, visited Tuilagi in Manchester. Asked at the time if he would be anxious about his player heading into England camp ahead of his likely Australian tour involvement or whether the best way forward to guard against injury had been agreed, Sanderson said: “More the latter. 

“You have to, don’t you, or you end up every time he makes a break I’d be thinking he might get injured. But no, it’s not the case. He has been in great form, he has probably played longer minutes than he has played since my time here, he has been playing 80-minute stints. 

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“In Bristol, we had to put him back on even though we took him off so he played 75 minutes then. Jon Clarke came up on Monday, who is the head of performance at the RFU, to meet individually with our S&C guys and with the players, Tom (Curry), Manu and Bev (Rodd). 

“Eddie saw them all individually and I caught up with Eddie as well for a bit of food, so the communication couldn’t be any better. It is certainly the best it has been with England with regards to the care of the players. I am as confident as I could ever be that they are going to get looked after.”

Missing the tour is the latest setback for the 31-year-old Tuilagi whose career has been pockmarked by lengthy stints on the sidelines and this season was no exception, the centre damaging a hamstring when scoring during England’s November win over South Africa. 

Nursed back to fitness over the winter, he returned with his club for two matches at the start of February and was then called up to the England squad. However, within hours of being named to start against Wales at the end of that month, he had to withdraw with another hamstring injury. 

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It wasn’t until the start of April that he was playing again for his club after missing out at Test level and Sale reported at the time that they would be in discussions with England to try and tease out what had gone wrong and what was the way of moving forward. That decision has culminated in a knee operation separate from their concerns over his hamstring issue. 

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finn 5 hours ago
Massive red flag raised by weakened Champions Cup teams – Andy Goode

I wonder if the problem of some teams not taking it that seriously would be helped by making performance in the champions cup count towards qualification and/or seeding in the following year’s competition. Eg. top four seeds would be winners of the URC, premiership, and top 14, plus best performing team in the previous year’s CC who have not otherwise qualified. Doing that the seedings for this years comp. would have been: Tier one: Saracens - Munster - Toulouse - la Rochelle Tier two: Sale - Stormers - Racing 92 - Leinster Tier three: Leicester - Connacht - Bordeaux - Exeter Tier four: Northampton - Ulster - Lyon - Sharks Tier five: Harlequins - Glasgow - Stade Francais - Edinburgh Tier six: Bath - Bulls - Toulon - Ospreys The competition would probably work better with fewer teams, so I’d probably favour only the first 4 tiers being invited, and then going straight to a quarter final without a round of 16. On the one hand this would possibly incentivise teams to take the champions cup seriously, and on the other it would mean that the latter stages would be more likely to involve teams that have demonstrated a willingness to take the competition seriously. The main differences between my proposed system and the actual draw is that mine would give la Rochelle a fairly easy ride to the quarters, and would either exclude the Bulls entirely or would give then an insurmountably difficult draw. As it happened Exeter got quite an easy pool draw but that was a bit of a fluke. My system would reward Exeter for being one of the teams that demonstrably devote a lot of attention to the CC by guaranteeing them a good draw.

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