Manu Tuilagi’s switch to France officially confirmed signalling end of England career

Dylan Coetzee
Manu Tuilagi in action for England against South Africa in 2023 Rugby World Cup.

Manu Tuilagi in action for England against South Africa in 2023 Rugby World Cup.

England centre Manu Tuilagi’s move to Bayonne in France has officially been confirmed with the 32-year-old making the switch at the beginning of next season.

The move to France means that Tuilagi’s appearance against Ireland in the last round of the Six Nations will most likely be his last for the Red Rose, with the RFU’s eligibility laws restricting the selection of players not based in the Premiership.

One last goal

Tuilagi, who previously played for Leicester Tigers before moving to Sale Sharks, is desperate to win the Premiership with his club before heading abroad.

“I’ve absolutely loved my time at Sale,” he told the club website. “It was a really tough conversation with Al, and a tough decision for everyone because my family and I have been really happy here.

“I never thought I’d leave Leicester and it was a big move, but since arriving here I’ve grown a lot as a person. I’ve developed as a player, but more so as a person.

“The environment at Sale is amazing. It’s what makes me want to get out of bed and put the work in, and I genuinely love coming in every day.

“If I’ve helped the young players then that’s great, but they’ve helped me so much too and I’m going to miss them all.

“The mindset from the start of the season was to win the Premiership and that’s what we’re all focused on now. Knowing it’s my last season here will give me an extra push to make sure I leave on a high.”

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Big loss

Sale boss Alex Sanderson understands Tuilagi’s decision but admits it is a tough one to take and underlined how much the club would miss him.

Sanderson said: “We talked about what was best for the club and what was best for Manu and his family, and we had to make a tough decision. But it’s still a wrench and really tough for me to accept that he’s going.

“He is one of the world’s best players and one of the world’s best blokes. There are very few people who can do what he can on the field. As a player he’s every bit as good as I thought he was before I came here, but as a person he continues to surprise and inspire me to be better.

“We’ll miss him massively on the field, but the void he leaves off it will be harder to fill.

“His smile is the same whether he’s running on to the field ready to smash someone, or sitting opposite you having a glass of wine, and I’m really going to miss that.”

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