Sale Sharks are hoping to get Manu Tuilagi to play upwards of 16 matches for them between now and the end of the 2020/21 season after the England and Lions centre signed on Monday from Leicester Tigers on a one-year deal reputedly worth around £300,000. 

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The 29-year-old has seldom managed that amount of club outings in recent years during his injury-hit career. He burst on the scene in 2010/11 and became a Leicester regular for his initial three seasons. 

However, injuries then took their toll and it was only last season – 2018/19 – that his level of club exposure return to those early days levels, Tuilagi making 17 Gallagher Premiership and Heineken Champions Cup starts for Leicester. 

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Japan 2019 with England and the subsequent Guinness Six Nations, where he made a total of eleven Test appearances, meant this club figure fell to just five games in the coronavirus-affected 2019/20 season that will recommence next month with Tuilagi now having changed clubs from Tigers to Sharks. 

Having apparently convinced Tuilagi that Sale were the best solution for his career after he refused to accept a permanent pay cut at Leicester, Sharks boss Steve Diamond outlined to media at the player’s unveiling press conference what he is looking for in the year ahead from his new recruit. 

“The key is getting Manu into 15-16 games (per season) for Sale,” he said on a conference call. “He hasn’t managed to do that over the years. The first thing is the care and detail, (learning to) understand his body over the next fortnight, knowing exactly what he needs, and then see when we utilise that.

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“Initially he’s here for twelve months – that’s two campaigns, as I see it – and as we get to know each other we’ll have a chat about the future. Initially, it’s how we get this lad playing for us on a regular basis and playing for England on a regular basis. Then the big light at the tunnel is a Lions tour in twelve months’ time.

It’s all about the daily training regime, not about numbers of matches played. It will be getting to know what works for him before we make a decision on where we push him and what direction we push him, in the training phase.”

Currently second in the Premiership table five points behind leaders Exeter, Sale commence their nine-game regular season run-in with an August 14 trip to Harlequins.

Elsewhere at Sale, coaching duo Mike Forshaw and Paul Deacon have signed contract extensions. The former rugby league duo, who have been part of the coaching set up at the club since 2015 and 2013 respectively, have both signed new contracts which will see them remain part of the Sharks coaching team until the end of the 2021/22 Gallagher Premiership season.

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