Manu Tuilagi: Sale Sharks boss Alex Sanderson ‘positive’ following England centre’s return

Colin Newboult

Sale director of rugby Alex Sanderson expects Manu Tuilagi to be fully up to speed soon, after featuring in the Sharks’ Premiership opener on Sunday.

The 31-year-old was making his return from a knee injury sustained towards the end of last season.

Tuilagi underwent a minor operation to correct the issue, which kept him out of England’s tour to Australia, but he was back in action for the Sharks at the weekend.

Sale began their Premiership campaign with a 29-22 victory over Northampton Saints and, although Tuilagi’s impact was limited, Sanderson believes the England man will get back to his best.

More positives than negatives

“It is good to see Manu get that game-time under his belt,” he said.

“Hopefully we will get a full 80 minutes out of him soon. He showed what he’s about and he’ll keep working hard.

“It is great to have him back on the field and overall there were many more positives than negatives.”

It was an excellent start to the season from the Sharks, who touched down four times through Gus Warr, Luke James, Sam James and Tom O’Flaherty.

They have looked to alter their game in pre-season and Sanderson insists that it is only a “glimpse” of what they can offer in 2022/23.

“We have seen an exciting glimpse of what we’re going to be about,” he said.

“There has been a shift in focus in the way we will endeavour to attack opposition teams and there was also lots of physicality in defence I thought.

“We look like we could be hard to stop this season.

“In previous seasons we have looked undercooked at times, but today we showed good signs of form and that’s encouraging.”

Northampton’s character

Sale will have been disappointed with the final 15 minutes as the visitors scored three tries to rescue a losing bonus-point.

Sanderson’s men outplayed Northampton in the first hour, but Saints director of rugby Phil Dowson was pleased with the character they showed.

“I feel like we let too much go in the first hour of the game,” Dowson said.

“We created opportunities to score, but it is frustrating we did not go on to finish off more of them.

“Overall we were not quite as efficient as I know we can be and Sale took advantage of that.

“It was looking ugly for us at 29-3 behind, but to be fair I thought the lads showed plenty of heart and commitment after that.

“There are lots of things we can look back on and work on making improvements, but it is early days and we will get better as the season progresses.”

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