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The post-game Sale update on latest Manu Tuilagi injury

By Liam Heagney
Sale's Rob du Preez, Manu Tuilagi and Luke Cowan-Dickie celebrate beateing Saracens (Photo by Steve Bardens/Getty Images for Sale Sharks)

Alex Sanderson is refusing to believe that Manu Tuilagi has played his last match for Sale, claiming that he has a chance of making their June 1 semi-final at Bath even though he limped off with hamstring damage at Saracens.

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The England midfield powerhouse has signed a deal that will take him to Bayonne in the Top 14 next season and he now faces a race against time to be fit to feature for the Sharks again following their convincing 20-10 win over the defending Gallagher Premiership champions.

That Sale heist at StoneX Stadium denied Saracens home advantage in the semi-finals, instead leaving them travelling to Northampton on May 31 with Sanderson’s third-place team booked in to visit The Rec the day after.

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Tuilagi exited the field in London after getting hurt in a 17th-minute carry that was ended when chopped down by Ben Earl.

Defeat for Sale would have meant that Saturday was his final appearance as they would have been overtaken on the table by Bristol. However, semi-final qualification means that the season now has one – if not two – more games left.

Attack

176
Passes
141
139
Ball Carries
118
152m
Post Contact Metres
228m
8
Line Breaks
6

“We are going to get it checked out,” explained Sanderson in the aftermath of a match where tries from Tom Roebuck and Rob du Preez, along with 10 points from the boot of George Ford, proved too got for Saracens to handle.

“He has definitely pulled his hamstring, we just don’t know how bad. But he is a quick healer, we know that, and we have got two weeks to put Humpty Dumpty back together again so we will give him as long as we can.”

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Ford has electrified the Sale attack since his post-Guinness Six Nations return to the club following England duty and Sanderson sang his praises for a display where he left opposition No10 Owen Farrell firmly in the shade.

“George Ford has been phenomenal. You meet players and there are only a couple I have met – Owen Farrell is one – with this type of influence and how he can take a group and turn a group.

“He is a tough kid, George, and he gets stuck in. He was quite aggressive afterwards, he was saying, ‘We are not celebrating this, we are going for Bath’.”

Sale blew a lead in the second half of last year’s Twickenham final, but there was no result-altering comeback from Saracens on this occasion after they found themselves 20-3 behind with 27 minutes remaining.

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“I thought it was a really mature second half how we were able to manage the game because there was a high ball-in-play time in the first half.

“We leaned into the set-piece, which burns some of the clock. We’re not talking about gamesmanship here. They [Saracens] were just going, trying to run us off our feet, so you have got to lean into areas of strength which we felt today were the set-piece and our physicality. How they managed that second half was a really good sign of growth for this group.

“Reaching the play-offs has not really dawned on me,” he added. “From where we were post-Six Nations to getting to the top four is a Herculean effort from the lads. I give them all credit. They have taken hold of it since the Six Nations. Their ownership has taken it to a different level and they are loving it.”

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Flankly 10 hours ago
Resilient Irish will test Springboks despite provincial setbacks

The Bok kryptonite is complacency. How did they lose to Japan in 2015, or to Italy in 2016? There are plenty of less dramatic examples. They often boil down to the Boks dialing back their focus and intensity, presuming they can win with less than 100% commitment. This can be true of most teams, but there is a reason that the Boks are prone to it. It boils down to the Bok game plan being predicated on intensity. The game plan works because of the relentless and suffocating pressure that they apply. They don’t allow the opponent to control the game, and they pounce on any mistake. It works fantastically, but it is extremely demanding on the Bok players to pull it off. And the problem is that it stops working if you execute at anything less than full throttle. Complacency kills the Boks because it can lead to them playing at 97% and getting embarrassed. So the Bulls/Leinster result is dangerous. It’s exactly what is needed to introduce that hint of over-confidence. Rassie needs to remind the team of the RWC pool game, and of the fact that Ireland have won 8 of the 12 games between the teams in the last 20 years. And of course the Leinster result also means that Ireland have a point to prove. Comments like “a club team beating a test team” will be pasted on the changing room walls. They will be out to prove that the result of the RWC game truly reflects the pecking order between the teams. The Boks can win these games, but, as always, they need to avoid the kryptonite.

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