Sale are set to confirm his capture later today, a week after Director of Rugby Diamond denied the club had spoken to the star centre, who has left Leicester Tigers after failing to agree a new cut price contract. It was widely reported that Tuilagi was attempting to come to an agreement with Tigers, but the club effectively shut the door on his return when they officially confirmed he would not be playing for Tigers. Tuilagi, who had commanded a £480,000 pay packet at Welford Road, was unwilling to drop to the circa £360,000 a year figure the club wanted to cut him to.
Tuilagi’s signing now throws up a mouthwatering pairing with Rohan Janse Van Rensburg, a player many has been likened to a physical doppelganger to the blockbusting centre.
The average Premiership centre is a shade over six feet in height (184cm) and weighs an average of 100kg (15 stone 10Ibs). Tuilagi and RJVR both stand six foot tall and tip the scales at 110kg and 109kg respectively, a full 9kg plus (a stone and half) more than the average centre. Both play a similar brand of hard-running, physical rugby.
Together the pair will weigh in at at least 219kg, or 34.4 stone. Tuilagi is listed on Leicester’s website as 109.8kg, but he has been as high as 112kg in the past. The prospect of not one but two massive, gain line-busting centres lining out is one Sharks fans will look forward to – opposing defences not so much.
“I have always been the more bulkier guy in the team and there hasn’t been any weight training or power training – it is just the way I am built,” Van Rensburg told RugbyPass earlier this year. “I have to thank my parents for that.”
Van Rensburg regularly leads the metre making statistics at Sharks, a trait he brought over from the Lions in South Africa when he signed in 2018. By the end of round 7 of the current Gallagher Premiership season, Rensburg had beaten a league-leading 34 defenders.
Meanwhile Tuilagi’s return to physical form has seen his running metres spike. The England centre made 93 metres against Tonga at the Rugby World Cup in Japan. Indeed, England head coach Eddie Jones nicknamed Tuilagi ‘pinball machine’ after his performance in England’s RWC 2019 warmup win over Wales.
Manu won’t be the first Tuilagi to grace the midfield for Sale Sharks of course, with older brother Anitelea earning 29 caps for the Sharks between 2008 and 2011.
Sign up to our mailing list for a weekly digest from the wide world of rugby.Sign Up Now