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Tuilagi closes door on England career

TRANSFER NEWS: England centre Manu Tuilagi will leave Sale Sharks at the end of the season to join French side Bayonne on a two-year deal, the clubs announced.

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The 32-year-old joined Sharks from Premiership rivals Leicester Tigers in 2020.

Tuilagi won his 60th cap in England’s 31-33 defeat by France in Saturday’s Six Nations final round.

But that is likely to be his last international appearance with Rugby Football Union (RFU) regulations dictating that any player departing England becomes ineligible for selection.

Tuilagi has been an automatic pick in the midfield for four successive England coaches due to the power he provides on both sides of the ball.

However, the Samoa-born player’s career has been heavily interrupted by a number of serious injuries.

Sale Sharks currently sit seventh in the Premiership table but are just four points off the playoffs and Tuilagi is hoping to go out a winner.

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“The mindset from the start of the season was to win the Premiership and that’s what we’re all focused on now,” he told the club’s website.

“Knowing it’s my last season here will give me an extra push.”

Sale Sharks director of rugby Alex Sanderson said Tuilagi will leave a huge void on and off the pitch.

“He is one of the world’s best players, and one of the world’s best blokes,” said Sanderson.

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“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.”

Tuilagi’s departure adds to the trend of England internationals turning their back on the Premiership for the financial rewards of France’s Top 14.

Lock Dave Ribbans, back row Jack Willis, centre Joe Marchant and wing Henry Arundell have all moved to France in recent months since being part of Steve Borthwick’s squad that finished third at last year’s World Cup.

 

 

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