Tuilagi ar­rival can put Sale on path to Premiershi­p glory

Eng­land cen­tre adds a new di­men­sion as Di­a­mond builds a Sharks side ca­pa­ble of claim­ing first ti­tle since 2006

The Daily Telegraph - Business - - Sport Rugby Union - By Char­lie Morgan

Janse van Rens­burg, three im­pos­ing cen­tres should re­main fresh de­spite a con­gested fix­ture list. Di­a­mond is used to man­ag­ing a small roster.

An­other strat­egy has been to blood and trust youth. Ben Curry turned 22 last month, yet has made 64 league ap­pear­ances. Although the in­tro­duc­tion of Tuilagi brings the num­ber of senior play­ers to just 34 – if Cobus Wiese’s work per­mit is ap­proved – the only place Sale look slightly thin is in the back three.

Then again, ex­pect Di­a­mond to present op­por­tu­ni­ties for in­di­vid­u­als such as academy prospect Tom Roe­buck, the Eng­land Un­der-20 wing who trained with Ed­die Jones’s senior set-up dur­ing the 2020 Six Na­tions.

Le­ices­ter sup­port­ers will tell you, jus­ti­fi­ably, that in­juries re­stricted Tuilagi’s im­pact. But many would also ad­mit that a dearth of team co­he­sion – epit­o­mised by a pro­ces­sion of five coaches in just over three years at Welford Road – mit­i­gated his abil­ity to in­flu­ence games.

One tac­tic, of leav­ing him in the back­field as an ex­plo­sive kick-re­turner, was adopted by Eng­land.

How­ever, play­maker Ge­orge Ford spoke of the need to en­sure Tuilagi was not run­ning into brick walls.

Although hooker Rob Web­ber and lock Bryn Evans have left, Sale should still be able to rely on a strong line-out plat­form. They have Dorian West on the coach­ing staff and jumpers such as Lood de Jager, Josh Beau­mont and the Du Preez twins, Daniel and Jean-Luc.

Tom Curry has de­vel­oped into a sharp dis­trib­u­tor at the tail of mauls. At­tack coach Paul Dea­con, a vet­eran of rugby league, is a stick­ler for de­tail when it comes to run­ning an­gles and slice pat­terns.

Just as cun­ning at­tack­ers such as Sam James and Denny Solomona will cap­i­talise on how Tuilagi at­tracts de­fend­ers, Dea­con will de­vise ways to give Sale’s new re­cruit oneon-ones by launch­ing him with plenty of heavy bod­ies in mo­tion.

Eng­land’s de­fen­sive mas­ter­class against New Zealand in the semi­fi­nal of the World Cup was un­der­pinned by Tuilagi’s dis­play in the out­side-cen­tre chan­nel.

Tuilagi reprises that com­bi­na­tion with Tom Curry. Ben, Tom’s twin brother, is an­other rav­en­ous jack­aller, while Faf de Klerk adopts a roam­ing role that spooks teams into mis­takes. Around them, workhorses such as Ross Har­ri­son and Jono Ross graft re­lent­lessly.

The­o­ret­i­cally, it is a dis­rup­tive blend and one for Sale de­fence coach Mike For­shaw to rel­ish.

Whether he meant to ex­press the com­pli­ment in this or­der, Di­a­mond’s de­scrip­tion of Tuilagi as a “fan­tas­tic com­mer­cial and play­ing ad­di­tion” made one pon­der the re­turns of a deal that is un­der­stood to be worth about £300,000 for the re­main­der of this sea­son and the 2020-21 cam­paign.

Within three hours of be­ing posted to Sale’s of­fi­cial In­sta­gram ac­count, a pho­to­graph of Di­a­mond shak­ing hands with Tuilagi had gar­nered 10,000 likes.

Tuilagi, a grin­ning, all-ac­tion player who is pop­u­lar with fans and looks good on posters, will sell tick­ets and doubt­less en­hance Sale’s chances of win­ning the Premiershi­p for the first time since 2006.

There is a Premiershi­p Rugby Cup fi­nal against Har­lequins in the diary as well, and the club are plot­ting a new sta­dium in Sale. These are ex­cit­ing times.

Shake on it: Steve Di­a­mond, di­rec­tor of rugby at Sale, wel­comes Manu Tuilagi to the club

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