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The new 'greater understanding of what breaks' Manu Tuilagi

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

Sale boss Alex Sanderson believes the Gallager Premiership club and England are now much better aligned in their quest to get Manu Tuilagi to the 2023 World Cup, a quest that begins with this Friday’s new season league opener at home to Northampton in Manchester. Concerns regarding the health of Tuilagi became one of the dominant narratives of last season.

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The powerhouse midfielder was initially injured when scoring versus South Africa last November. He then withdrew with a fresh setback within hours of getting chosen to start versus Wales in the Guinness Six Nations in February, and his year was rounded off when pulling out of the England tour to Australia to instead have a “routine procedure on his knee”.

Tuilagi is now back in harness and is expected to feature at the AJ Bell for Sale provided he comes through a final training session this week unscathed. An appearance versus the Saints would be his first run since the May 20 Premiership win at Wasps nearly 16 weeks ago.

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“Manu is good to good. He is looking fit. We have still got a training session and stuff so you don’t want to call it too early, but I would say he is good to go,” suggested director of rugby Sanderson, who outlined that Sale and Eddie Jones’ England have the best interests of Tuilagi at heart and are combining their medical and scientific expertise to ensure there is no repeat of last season’s injury-hit ordeal.

“It’s nothing dissimilar to how we got him into decent shape last time. It has just been a more gradual progression of his loading, constant vigilance on his weight. I’d say we are hyper-sensitive to the amount of sprint metres he does, having a greater understanding of what breaks him, so (it’s about) keeping him under that threshold.

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“I really am (confident). I have got a good relationship with Eddie. He’s no fool, Eddie, we know that, he is a very intelligent man. I say we as in us and then and our relationship and I don’t think we’d want to repeat any of the mistakes of the past. It’s on us and them together to work out a plan and a loading system for him that keeps him on the field and gets him to that World Cup. That is all our aims – Sale, Manu’s and England’s.”

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Of the Sale players that toured Australia with England, only Bevan Rodd is available for selection this week as Jonny Hill is still completing his pre-season while Tom Curry is having what Sanderson described as a mandatory twelve-week recovery following his latest concussion.

“It was a mandatory twelve-week layoff. He had five weeks completely off like the old days and went to Kenya and did some charity work, got back with his girlfriend, so he has come back more mentally refreshed and enthusiastic from any camp I have seen him. He is champing at the bit.”

Meanwhile, Raffi Quirke, who had a late April operation and was unavailable to tour with England, has “had a couple of setbacks in his rehabilitation programme that put him back a couple of weeks”.

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