Sale boss Alex Sanderson has spoken about his bromance with Manu Tuilagi which resulted in the Gallagher Premiership club convincing the England midfielder that his career was best served by staying with them for the next two years.
A deal taking Tuilagi through to 2023 at the club he signed for last July on a one-year contract was unveiled on Monday and Sanderson, who only took over the reins at the Sharks in January, gave his side of the negotiations that had happened when he fronted the club’s media session on Tuesday evening.
Having worked as an assistant at Saracens prior to succeeding Steve Diamond at Sale, Sanderson wouldn’t have known Tuilagi at all until this year. However, the Sharks medical department telling Tuilagi to go hiking to stretch out the achilles he tore last September became an opportunity for the new director of rugby to get to know the 29-year-old.
It resulted in Monday’s announcement that Tuilagi had ignored offers elsewhere and will stay in Manchester where he hopes to be back on the pitch next month to declare his fitness for the upcoming Lions tour if Warren Gatland wants to pick him.
“From my end, I like the man,” said Sanderson when asked how the Tuilagi contract renewal at Sale had come about. “We were looking at numbers and what we need as a squad and how it all fits together to stay under the (revised salary) cap and our prediction of what Manu would be offered and probably was offered wouldn’t fit those plans going forward.
'In terms of the environment, he’s the glue in the squad'https://t.co/yBzRKRDv7q
— RugbyPass (@RugbyPass) April 19, 2021
“So I wanted to understand the man because at that moment I was looking at numbers and this was a few weeks into the current tenure. I went on a hike with him. He had been going on four-to-ten mile hikes around the Peak District to get his achilles working again so I thought what better way than going on a walk with him.
“I went stride for stride with him for three hours and fall in love isn’t too strong a word. I have got a massive bromance for the fella, a huge bromance. He is a very intelligent, multi-layered, deep person and understanding his values as a human being, what he wanted moving forward for the rest of his life and then having a few conversations around the place with other people on what they thought of him, it just seemed like a no-brainer.
“Let alone his rugby talent, don’t get me wrong, and then understanding what he gave up, what he was willing to sacrifice in wages to stay here with us was a testament to how much he wanted to be a part of this organisation moving forward, so it just made complete sense for us to keep him, look after him and get him back hopefully on the Lions, that’s the aim.
“Everyone can get more money in France,” continued Sanderson. “There is more money there, the salary cap is bigger… but from my understanding of players who have done as much as he has done, who have achieved as much as he has, who is from a quite hierarchical Samoan family that can be difficult to get him to open up, that takes time but it felt with Manu it was almost immediate.
“He just let me in from the off so we were already communicating at quite a deep level about the big stuff, important stuff, principle, values, life in general. We got to that level of communication quickly. Why did he stay for us for less? Potentially I’d like to think he feels is part of a club, a family, a brotherhood moving forward which is what we are trying to build and he feels an integral part of that.
“Like I asked the lads today [Tuesday], we were in a meeting looking at the Golden State Warriors who were immense, said to be the world’s best team ever. They had nine key principles they stuck to and one of them was what we discussed today, the team culture and team concept and it talked about everyone knowing their role from the best player to the worst player and we tried to compare ourselves to it.
“I asked a question: who here has Manu Tuilagi taught to be a barista, taught you how to make a proper cup of coffee? I’m talking about half the squad, 25 of them, he has got a part-time job here as a barista. That speaks volumes of the bloke that he is. He has got time for everyone, not just to have coffee but to teach them a little skill and that is off the field while he is injured. That is one example of the kind of glue he is around the place.”
The RFU's verdict on Jones is as popular as football's European Super League plan https://t.co/XRPtOe90la
— RugbyPass (@RugbyPass) April 20, 2021
Sign up to our mailing list for a weekly digest from the wide world of rugby.Sign Up Now