'I speak frequently to him' - Tuilagi on track for shot at Lions
England wing Marland Yarde knows all about the long hours of lonely rehabilitation needed to return from serious injury which makes his update on Manu Tuilagi, his close friend and Sale Sharks teammate, so encouraging.
Tuilagi, who needed surgery after suffering an Achilles injury against Northampton in September, has taken up salsa dancing and hiking as part of his return to fitness regime and Yarde believes the England centre will be back in May which gives him time to press for inclusion in the British and Irish Lions series against South Africa.
It would also enable 29-year-old Tuilagi to boost Sale’s bid to make the Gallagher Premiership play-offs with a May return making him available for a possible five rounds of regular-season games plus the play-offs in June. The Lions tour starts with a warm-up game against Japan in Edinburgh at the end of June.
Yarde said: “Manu is a good friend of mine and I speak frequently to him and he has been through the trauma before with other significant injuries and knows all about the mental battles that go along the way. He has been very good and the tenacious way he plays you do pick up injuries and he has been really positive.
“I have watched him grow in the last couple of months in terms of his strength, he is walking 7km twice a week and is in really good spirits. He will start running soon and is due to be back playing in May and if everything goes to plan we should have him before the end of the season.”
Yarde didn’t opt for ballroom dancing as he fought back from a career-threatening knee injury in 2018, but he recognises the benefits of a varied programme during the long months of hard work. Yarde used trampolining as part of his rehabilitation that also took him to America to work with the world-renowned Bill Knowles who is an expert at enabling athletes to recover from serious knee injuries. Yarde said: “I did a lot of trampolining and in America there was gymnastics, rolling and crawling and they are all designed to get you back to natural movements. That is the aim of it all.”
Tuilagi will be in the crowd supporting his teammates when they face Newcastle at the AJ Bell Stadium tonight with Yarde operating on the wing with the kind of threat that earned the 28-year-old 13 England caps. Sale are without captain Jono Ross who is serving a one-game ban after receiving three yellow cards and discipline has been a recurring problem for the team as they battle for a top four place. “We are quite a power-based team,” added Yarde. “It is about finding that balance of being aggressive but not going over the line and we have let teams in with our discipline this season. When we get it right with our defence and physicality teams find it difficult to break us down.
“We know it’s in our own hands and don’t want to get away from that competitive edge we have but we have to identify that player welfare is important. We have to stay on the right side of referee.”
Newcastle defeated fourth-placed Sale 15-13 at the start of the season at Kingston Park and the lessons from that loss have been absorbed by Yarde and he teammates. “They have a really hard-working pack and kick-chase really well,” he said: “They try and stress your defence and we have been working on a game plan this week we believe can nullify them. It will be a very tough game and we can’t afford a 60-70min performance because that will cost us.”
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