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England centre Manu Tuilagi: 'We have a plan to keep me fit for the World Cup!'

‘We have a plan to keep me fit for the World Cup!’: Manu Tuilagi returns to action at Sale this season after another injury and England center have their eye on the big prize

  • Manu Tuilagi remains arguably the most important figure in English rugby
  • The 31-year-old had a lot to think about after another injury-hit campaign
  • He has only played six times for England since the defeat of the World Cup final in 2019

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Life is about love, not hate,” says a newly philosophical Manu Tuilagi, as he reclines on a bench by the English rugby home and surveys the landscape of empty Twickenham.

“Look at everything that’s happening in the world. If we spread love, it would be a much better place. We are here in Twickenham, in peace. Look at other countries like Ukraine. They are at war. That should put into perspective how lucky you and me are. We don’t have to worry about someone bombing our house. We should be grateful.’

On the eve of the new season – which will culminate in the World Cup in France next year – Tuilagi is in reflective mood as he talks to Sportsmail. The juggernaut’s English center has had to do a lot of thinking this summer after having to spend long periods on the treatment table in a new injury campaign.

England centre Manu Tuilagi 039We have a plan to keep

Manu Tuilagi (above) remains arguably the most important figure in English rugby

Now 31, Tuilagi is no stranger to the physio room. Both fitness and disciplinary issues have shaped his career and yet he remains arguably the most important figure in English rugby. There is simply no other player like Tuilagi in his central position. That’s why England coach Eddie Jones is hoping the Sale man can stay fit for what’s a massive 12 months ahead.

“It’s tough,” Tuilagi says, “but as you get older you learn and can accept it. My wife is everything to me. She’s there every day and it’s hard for her when I’m injured. She has helped me to be where I am and enabled me to make my dream come true. But when it happens, you need to move on and start looking at the plan to come back. I always have in mind the day I’ll be back on the field.’

Last season Tuilagi suffered from hamstring and knee problems. The first saw him miss England’s disappointing Six Nations. He should have started against Wales, but was eliminated at 11am. Tuilagi also had to sit out England’s summer tour win over Australia to undergo knee surgery.

It has left many questioning whether Jones should abandon his powerful midfielder as he isn’t around often enough to rely on.

The 31-year-old had a lot to think about after an injury marred yet another campaign

The 31-year-old had a lot to think about after an injury marred yet another campaign

The 31-year-old had a lot to think about after an injury marred yet another campaign

“I’ve read all the comments on Twitter. 100 percent,” Tuilagi adds. “There aren’t many things that annoy me because it’s people’s opinion and I can’t help it. It doesn’t make me angry. “They will say what they say, good or bad. I am always happy. I’m completely fit now and I’m training again. I can not wait. Being on the field is a great feeling. You can take it for granted. It’s what I love to do and it’s about not talking about it, but doing it and bringing it to life.”

Since England’s defeat to South Africa in the 2019 World Cup final, Tuilagi has played just six internationals. But he is still one of the first names on the team sheet given the punch he brings to the back division. He will be carefully managed by Sale and England this season. The plan, drawn up after crunch talks between the two sides following Tuilagi’s hamstring problem in March, means a single game will be missed at club level.

The England star has played just six internationals since the defeat of the World Cup final in 2019

The England star has played just six internationals since the defeat of the World Cup final in 2019

The England star has played just six internationals since the defeat of the World Cup final in 2019

Tuilagi, Jones and Sale director of rugby Alex Sanderson hope the strategy pays off. “It’s a matter of looking at myself,” Tuilagi says. “I’ve learned a lesson about sleep. You need to rest your body when you are working hard. I could have done that better before. I would like to play in the World Cup. But it’s about how I get there. I have to concentrate now. We have a plan at Sale and they have a good relationship with England. My body feels good. It’s about recovering from it for a long season.’

Tuilagi thanks the support of his wife Chantelle and his five older brothers for helping him through the hard times. He will start at the center for Sale if tonight’s Premiership opener against Northampton goes through. Jones will certainly watch with interest.

Sales — boosted by George Ford and Jonny Hill’s signings — hope to challenge the Premiership’s elite. And then for Tuilagi there are the fall internationals to aspire to when the All Blacks come to visit for the first time since 2019. The newly phlegmatic Tuilagi will take it all on himself and doesn’t think if he gets injured again it’s all doom and gloom for England.

“There are guys who can fill in for me in England,” he says. “We have incredible players who can go and win. Look at the tour to Australia, great. We have depth, but if I’m lucky enough to be there, I love it.

“Coming out in stadiums like Twickenham is what dreams are made of. I love all England fans. I feel privileged to have people who support me and if there are fans who don’t, I still love them.”

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