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'The right thing': How the Tuilagi, Jones call unfolded on Monday

By Liam Heagney
(Photo by Steve Bardens/Getty Images for Sale Sharks)

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Alex Sanderson has shed light on the conversation that was had between England boss Eddie Jones and fit-again midfielder Manu Tuilagi which resulted in the Sale player getting the go-ahead to continue his comeback at the Gallagher Premiership club rather than get rushed back into the international set-up.

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The new midfield combination of Henry Slade operating at inside centre with Elliot Daly stationed outside him in the No13 channel didn’t set the world alight at Murrayfield in the Guinness Six Nations opener. 

There was a temptation to recall Tuilagi to the mix for next Sunday’s round two England game away to Italy after the powerhouse centre emerged unscathed from his 30-minute comeback for Sale at Harlequins last weekend. 

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However, it was instead decided over a phone call the next day to leave the 30-year-old in Manchester with a view to him starting in the Premiership next Saturday against Worcester rather than being recalled by England for the Italian job.

“Manu is happy,” reported Sanderson when asked by RugbyPass how the decision was reached that Tuilagi will stay on at Sale for more game time rather than jump straight back into the England mix following an eleven-week stint on the sidelines after the hamstring injury picked up when scoring against the Springboks in November.   

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“He was happy when I spoke to him because it was his conversation with Eddie, first and foremost, and I rang him back at half-past ten, eleven o’clock Monday and he was happy with how that conversation went because it is the right thing for him, it’s the best thing for him. It takes a big, well experienced and confident coach to leave someone of Manu’s ability out of his side. Especially with the pressure. 

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“He is always under pressure, Eddie, but under the pressure of losing the first match, you want to bring someone like Manu in because of what he adds around the training field, he can really bring that group together I believe, but Eddie has done the right thing by Manu which I think is fantastic and Manu is very happy with that as well. If squeezed he probably would have gone in, as players do, but he was given the option and he is staying with us.”

Tuilagi looked to be in rude health last Sunday at The Stoop following his latest lengthy layoff and Sanderson admitted the pair had a cuddle after the half-hour comeback passed off successfully on a day when Sale impressively defeated Harlequins. “He loved it, he’d a massive smile on his face and we just talked about how explosive he looked,” said the Sharks boss about what was said to Tuilagi post-game in London. 

“He didn’t have much time ball in hand and when he did he could have tucked it and run over Danny Care – and everyone on the sideline was wishing he did. He didn’t, he gave the pass because it was the right thing to do. That is by the by, that is his performance, but immediately after the game, I’m like, ‘Jeez, you looked sharp, even on your weaker shoulder’. 

He looked explosive and he has lost weight again as you can see. He is trimmer again which means he will be able to handle an increased amount of loading if he is played on the wing, for instance, the high-speed running is more England. 

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“The short and long of it is, I said, ‘Look, you have lost weight but you look more powerful, lighter on your feet almost’. So we just remarked on that a little bit. He said he loved it, looked good and that was it. We had a cuddle and cracked on.” 

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