Manu Tuilagi has recovered from an Achilles injury to win a place on Sale’s
bench as he prepares to makes his first appearance since September
Manu Tuilagi has been named on the bench for Sale
Manu Tuilagi will make his long-awaited comeback from a ruptured Achilles tendon when Sale face Gallagher Premiership leaders Bristol on Friday.
Sharks director of rugby Alex Sanderson said this week that the England centre looks “scarily powerful” in training.
Tuilagi’s return is a major boost for Sale, who are guaranteed a place in the Premiership play-offs and mathematically could finish as high as first.
Given he is an automatic selection when fit, it is also a big lift for England as they look towards summer Tests against the United States and Canada.
Tuilagi has been beset by a series of injuries in recent years
The British and Irish Lions will be monitoring his fitness carefully as well in the event that one of their centres is injured on the tour to South Africa.
Tuilagi was left out of the original 37-man squad because of concerns over his lack of game time, but Warren Gatland has said he is still on the Lions’ radar.
Apart from guiding Tuilagi back to his explosive best, one of Sale’s key tasks for the remaining three matches of the regular season and their play-off campaign is to stamp out their indiscipline.
“We’ve won nine of 11 matches when we’ve received 21 yellow. So that’s not a fluke. It can’t be a fluke,” Sanderson said.
“We’ve got something special here. When our backs are against the wall, we tend to galvanise and energise.
“That’s a really strong behaviour trait that I want to keep hold of – I’d just rather we had that mentality with 15 men on the field.
“We will be tougher to beat with 15 on the field and it’s something we keep talking about.”
Bristol will travel to Manchester in pursuit of an important prize that excites director of rugby Pat Lam.
Bristol boss Pat Lam wants to seal a home semi-final
“This is the final stretch. The most important thing for us is that we have an opportunity, with five points on offer, four points will seal a home semi,” Lam said.
“That’s the big incentive – to get the win and if we can secure a home semi-final with two games to go, it will be a tremendous effort.”
Sale: 15 Luke James, 14 Byron McGuigan, 13 Sam James, 12 Connor Doherty, 11 Marland Yarde, 10 AJ MacGinty, 9 Faf de Klerk, 1 Bevan Rodd, 2 Akker van der Merwe, 3 Coenie Oosthuizen, 4 Cobus Wiese, 5 Jean-Luc du Preez, 6 Ben Curry, 7 Tom Curry (c), 8 Daniel du Preez.
Replacements: 16 Curtis Langdon, 17 Valery Morozov, 18 James Harper, 19 James Phillips, 20 Cameron Neild, 21 Raffi Quirke, 22 Robert du Preez, 23 Manu Tuilagi
Bristol: 15 Charles Piutau, 14 Luke Morahan, 13 Semi Radradra, 12 Piers O’Conor, 11 Max Malins, 10 Callum Sheedy, 9 Andy Uren, 1 Jake Woolmore, 2 Jake Kerr, 3 Kyle Sinckler, 4 Dave Attwood, 5 Chris Vui (c), 6 Fitz Harding, 7 Ben Earl, 8 Nathan Hughes
Replacements: 16 Harry Thacker, 17 Yann Thomas, 18 Nahuel Tetaz Chaparro, 19 Ed Holmes, 20 Jake Heenan, 21 Tom Kessell, 22 Ioan Lloyd, 23 Siale Piutau