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The GPS tweak which Sale hope can get Tuilagi back with England

By Liam Heagney
(Photo by PA)

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Sale boss Alex Sanderson has explained they have adopted the GPS system used by England in order to get Manu Tuilagi fit “at some point of time during the Six Nations period”. The powerhouse midfielder damaged his hamstring in the act of diving in to score in the corner at Twickenham during last November’s win over the world champion Springboks.

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Sharks had suggested in recent weeks that a comeback for the 30-year-old wasn’t too far away, generating hopes that he would be back in action in time for the start of the Six Nations on February 5. 

However, Eddie Jones reported on Tuesday that Tuilagi had suffered “a wee setback” that had resulted in his exclusion from the 36-strong England squad named for next week’s training camp in Brighton ahead of the opening match away to Scotland.  

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Jones said: “He [Tuilagi] has had a wee setback but we will just have to wait and see what he is up to. He needs to get some training, needs to play a few games. If we are 100 per cent optimistic we’d say yes (he will feature in the Six Nations). If we are realistic it’s probably about a 50/50.”

The England coach refused to elaborate any further on the situation and it was left to Sale boss Sanderson to shed further light on Tuilagi when appearing at his weekly media conference on Wednesday ahead of next Sunday’s Champions Cup at home to Ospreys.  

He is in good form,” quipped Sanderson when asked about Tuilagi and when might he be fit and available for England selection. “His coffee-making skills are A1. He won’t be right for this weekend, touch and go for Leicester. He will be fit at some point during the Six Nations period. When and if he joins up with the England squad will be determined by his physical fitness and his mental well-being to be able to do it. 

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“That is what we have decided and Eddie has been brilliant with that. When he is right, we will push him through. I can’t give any more certainty to that because it is scratch and sniff with him at the moment.”

How careful are Sale about this latest challenge of getting the injury-prone Tuilagi ready to play again? “We are very sensitive around bringing him back too early because the goal is to push him towards the World Cup, and we have all the data that we had before he came back last time when he was in really good form,” reckoned Sanderson. 

“It’s not misalignment: we have our GPS system, they [England] have their own system of GPS and data collection for loading. What we have done now is get one of the England system units so that the data captured is homogenized and we have a better understanding of what it looks like across both camps.

“We are even more aligned than we were before in terms of what is right for him when he is here and we are able to build him up and increase that intensity for when he goes into the England camp.” 

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Tuilagi’s unrelenting determination to repeatedly bounce back from injury is why Sanderson has remained a fan. “There is a reason why we have kept him on board and why he is staying because most people with an injury record like that, it’s a big leap of fate but I have got faith in him that he will come back. 

“He has lost more weight, believe it or not. That was the one thing that made him more robust this season, so he has gone and done a little bit more. He has lost another two or three kgs on what he was. I think he’d be about 103, 102, something like that, lean and mean.”

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