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Six Nations boost for England as Manu Tuilagi is picked by Sale

By Liam Heagney
(Photo by PA)

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Missing England midfielder Manu Tuilagi is poised to play his first match in eleven weeks after he was named on the Sale bench for this Sunday’s Gallagher Premiership game at Harlequins. The powerhouse has been sidelined since damaging a hamstring in the act of scoring for his country against the Springboks on November 20. 

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That setback happened at Twickenham but Tuilagi will now make his latest comeback from injury just across the road from English Rugby HQ as Alex Sanderson has handed him the No23 Sale shirt for the match at nearby The Stoop against the reigning Premiership champions. 

Sanderson had suggested on Wednesday evening that Tuilagi was finally looking good to go after his return had suffered a setback according to England boss Eddie Jones on January 18 when he omitted the centre from the squad of 36 originally named for the Guinness Six Nations which starts this Saturday in Scotland.

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England are away to Italy in round two on February 13 but Sanderson would like Tuilagi to build up some game time first at Sale before getting a Test squad recall. “It’s a very definite maybe for this weekend I have to say,” enthused Sanderson at his midweek media briefing when asked about the latest likely return date for Tuilagi. 

“He has been out there the last two weeks. This week he has trained really well, looked sharp, looked good, happy. Yes, he is up for selection. Fit. 

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“More than one game (for Sale) would be advisable. His load has to be incrementally increased. We are over-cautions. That is what we are aiming towards but I am being flexible on either side of that depending on how he feels and his communication with England. I don’t really have a say in it. I have just got to see how he feels, see what the physios say and it is England’s call then really.” 

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Tuilagi isn’t the only massive world rugby name included on the Sale teamsheet for the first time in ages as Springboks scrum-half Faf de Klerk has also been selected on the bench. He had a hip operation in October after he returned from the Rugby Championship but he is now poised for his first appearance in the Premiership since last June’s semi-final defeat at Exeter.     

De Klerk is providing back-up to the starting No9 Raffi Quirke, who was released by England this week. Bevan Rodd, another who didn’t make the England 23, is on the Sale bench while hooker Ewan Ashman will start after his release by Scotland. 

SALE (vs Harlequins, Sunday)
15. Luke James; 14. Tom Roebuck, 13. Robert du Preez, 12. Rohan Janse van Rensburg, 11. Arron Reed; 10. AJ MacGinty, 9. Raffi Quirke; 1. Ross Harrison, 2, Ewan Ashman, 3. Coenie Oosthuizen, 4. Jean-Luc du Preez, 5. Lood de Jager, 6. Jono Ross (capt), 7. Sam Dugdale, 8. Daniel du Preez. Reps: 16. Curtis Langdon, 17. Bevan Rodd, 18. Joe Jones, 19. Jean-Pierre du Preez, 20. Cobus Wiese, 21. Faf de Klerk, 22. Sam James, 23. Manu Tuilagi.

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