Rugby

Sale announce Manu Tuilagi leaving at end of season

The 32-year-old is expected to join French side Bayonne.

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

Sale have announced England centre Manu Tuilagi will leave the club at the end of the season.

The 32-year-old, who joined Sharks from Gallagher Premiership rivals Leicester in 2020, is expected to move to French side Bayonne on a two-year contract.

He won his 60th – and likely final – cap for his country in Saturday’s 33-31 Guinness Six Nations defeat by France in Lyon.

Rugby Football Union regulations dictate any player departing the Premiership becomes ineligible for international selection.

Tuilagi set his sights on winning the title after confirming his decision to leave Alex Sanderson’s side.

“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.

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

“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.”

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.

Sale currently sit seventh in the Premiership table.

Sale director of rugby Alex Sanderson hailed the departing Manu Tuilagi as one of the world’s best players
Sale director of rugby Alex Sanderson hailed the departing Manu Tuilagi as one of the world’s best players Sale director of rugby Alex Sanderson hailed the departing Manu Tuilagi as one of the world’s best players (Brian Lawless/PA)

Sharks director of rugby 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.”