Premiership: Alex Sanderson backs ‘gutted’ Manu Tuilagi to rebound from sending off
Sale Sharks boss Alex Sanderson says Manu Tuilagi is ‘gutted’ after his red card during the side’s 38-34 Premiership defeat to Northampton Saints.
Tuilagi, who did not feature for England in their opening two Six Nations matches, was red-carded for a forearm to the face of Tommy Freeman in the 14th minute.
The centre was a mainstay in Eddie Jones’ squads but has fallen down the pecking order despite Steve Borthwick fielding two different centre pairings in the first two matches.
The fallow week provided Tuilagi with the opportunity to prove himself to the England Test selectors, and Sanderson said he was eager to do so.
“He (Tuilagi) is gutted. He has apologised and said he owes us. He fully owns what happened out there, and that’s the kind of man he is,” Sanderson said after the match.
“I know he will pay us back, but all of that is tough to take when you’re still reeling from a game that we could have won and we probably should have won.
“This was a game where he wanted to show how good he still is to England and those guys who are watching.
“I’m gutted for him that he didn’t get to do that, he didn’t get to showcase what he’s about, and I want that for him.”
Sanderson acknowledged that Tuilagi’s red card was not the only reason for the loss, with his side’s second-half performance concerning him.
He added: “We went in at half-time with the focus being on defence, but we didn’t get that part of the game right mentally, and they scored 31 points in the second half.”
Heart, desire and character
Meanwhile, Northampton Saints boss Phil Dowson praised his side’s character as they came back from 24-7 down at half-time to claim a thrilling home win.
“In the first half, we were very poor, gave penalties away, didn’t have the ball in their half, played in the middle of the field and couldn’t deal with the maul, so we conceded four tries,” Dowson said.
“It was unacceptable, but what you have to congratulate the players on is the heart, the desire and the character to come back.
“We got back on page, played properly, got back in the game, and we kept fighting. Those are the most important things from our point of view.”
READ MORE: Premiership: Northampton Saints sink Sale Sharks after Manu Tuilagi red, London Irish continue their playoff charge
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