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The Sale update that will have England and Springboks fans smiling

By Liam Heagney
Manu Tuilagi is back to match fitness (Photo by Visionhaus/Getty Images)

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Sale boss Alex Sanderson is poised to unleash fit-again duo Manu Tuilagi and Faf de Klerk in this weekend’s Gallagher Premiership action after the England midfielder and the Springboks scrum-half upped the ante on the training ground this week in the respective comebacks following surgery.

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Tuilagi hasn’t played since he damaged a hamstring in the act of scoring against South Africa last November at Twickenham while the hip-damaged de Klerk hasn’t taken the field since his October appearance for the Springboks against the All Blacks on the Gold Coast.  

However, both are now in harness at Sale and potentially ready to make their comebacks in this Sunday’s Premiership match at Harlequins, a development that will especially pique the interest of England fans hoping that Tuilagi might now return to the Test scene in time for the round two Six Nations match away to Italy on February 13. 

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Facing Goliath Trailer | Behind the scenes with Italy vs All Blacks | RugbyPass Originals
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Facing Goliath Trailer | Behind the scenes with Italy vs All Blacks | RugbyPass Originals

“It’s a very definite maybe for this weekend I have to say,” enthused Sanderson at his weekly media briefing when asked about the latest likely return date for Tuilagi. “He has been out there the last two weeks. This week he has trained really well, looked sharp, looked good, happy. Yes, he is up for selection. Fit.”

Sanderson, however, would prefer if Tuilagi got a number of games for Sale before getting recalled by England. “More than one game would be advisable. His load has to be incrementally increased. We are over-cautions so. 

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“That is what we are aiming towards but I am being flexible on either side of that depending on how he feels and his communication with England. I don’t really have a say in it. I have just got to see how he feels, see what the physios say and it is England’s call then really.”

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Switching to de Klerk, who underwent surgery on his return to England following international duty in Australia, Sanderson added: “He is also up for selection, buzzing around, a little ball of blonde energy around the training ground. He is in good form.”

De Klerk wasn’t initially expected to be available until late February, leaving Sanderson to explain that his half-back is two or three weeks ahead of schedule. “I got told two weeks on Sunday and four weeks on Monday – that was just the medical team wanting a pat on the back in front of the coaches, so I think it is two or three weeks ahead of schedule.”

Looking at his sudden riches at scrum-half when Raffi Quirke is also set for Sale duty after being cut on Tuesday from the England squad for Murrayfield, Sanderson said: “Raffi has only played three, Faf hasn’t played any (games this season). It’s not an excuse. The lads who have come in have done a really good job but they are world-class players them two. 

“Any team would miss them. Just to worry the defence, speed away from the breakdown and the threat they are with ball in hand, they are triple threats those guys. They can do everything.”

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