Rugby

Manu Tuilagi calls time on England career with move to French club Bayonne

Tuilagi will depart Sale in June.

Manu Tuilagi is to leave Sale at the end of the season
Manu Tuilagi is to leave Sale at the end of the season Manu Tuilagi is to leave Sale at the end of the season (Andrew Matthews/PA)

Manu Tuilagi has played his final game for England after agreeing to join French club Bayonne next season in a two-year-deal.

Tuilagi will depart Sale in June with the outcome of a medical the last hurdle before the move is finalised, the PA news agency understands.

The 32-year-old centre won his 60th cap in Saturday’s 33-31 defeat by France in Lyon after coming on as a replacement for Henry Slade in the 59th minute.

Manu Tuilagi has been England’s most powerful back since making his debut in 2011
Manu Tuilagi has been England's most powerful centre since making his debut in 2011 Manu Tuilagi has been England’s most powerful back since making his debut in 2011 (David Davies/PA)

Rugby Football Union regulations mean that any player leaving the Gallagher Premiership becomes ineligible for international 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, his career has been heavily interrupted by a number of serious injuries including groin, chest, hamstring, knee and a broken hand.

Ollie Lawrence (left) is the player to fill Manu Tuilagi’s boots for England
Ollie Lawrence (left) is the player to fill Manu Tuilagi's boots for England Ollie Lawrence (left) is the player to fill Manu Tuilagi’s boots for England (Mike Egerton/PA)

Had he been fit for every match since his debut in 2011, he would have amassed 156 caps.

Ollie Lawrence’s rampaging performance against France, which included two tries, suggests England have finally found his successor as a hard running centre but Tuilagi’s unique physicality means he will never be truly replaced.

Bayonne are positioned ninth in the Top 14 table and the move is expected to be officially confirmed this week.