Sale Sharks have confirmed that England centre Manu Tuilagi will join the club until the end of the 2020-21 Premiership season.
Tuilagi, finally released by Leicester Tigers last week after both parties failed to come to an agreement over a new contract, is due to link up with Steve Diamond’s squad on Monday.
The 29 year-old, who is managed by the same company as Sale and Springboks scrum-half Faf de Klerk, was eager to stay in England to remain available for Test rugby.
As reported by Telegraph Sport, he was willing to take a significant cut from his reported wages of £500,000 in order to do so.
Indeed, Telegraph Sport understands that Tuilagi will be earn around £300,000 for what is effectively a one-and-a-half-season contract with Sale.
However, next summer’s British and Irish Lions to South Africa is a major priority and he will now have a chance to play for England up until Lions head coach Warren Gatland finalises selection for that trip.
Joining the same club that his brother Andy represented between 2008 and 2011, Tuilagi will also provide a significant boost to Sale’s prospects of winning both the Premiership and Premiership Rugby Cup for a domestic double.
“We contacted Manu’s agent and Leicester Tigers last week to discuss the player’s current position,” said Diamond, Sale’s director of rugby.
“After discussions on Friday, all parties – Leicester Tigers, Manu Tuilagi and Sale Sharks – agreed that the player was a free agent and was able to enter into negotiations with another club.
“Manu will be a fantastic commercial and playing addition to the squad and I am looking forward to seeing him join up with the lads at Carrington this week.”
Diamond has a prolific history of opportunistic recruitment. Over recent years, he has brought in Chris Ashton from Toulon and signed Mark Wilson on loan from Newcastle Falcons. Both men subsequently continued their England careers.
Sale, currently second in the Premiership and on course for their first play-off appearance since they won the domestic title in 2006, had already bolstered their midfield with the summer addition of Sam Hill from Exeter Chiefs.
Rohan Janse van Rensburg, a muscular runner who, like Tuilagi, weighs close to 110kg (17 stone) and Sam James have developed a potent centre partnership. Luke James is another option outside fly-halves Aj MacGinty and Rob du Preez.
Last month, Sale announced that their playing squad had agreed to long-term contract extensions with the club’s entire staff accepting pay cuts in order to off-set the financial implications of both the Covid-19 pandemic and the Premiership’s reduced salary cap.
“Actions speak louder than words,” Diamond said at the time. “Whether it is Faf de Klerk or Tom Curry or Will Cliff, across the spectrum, they have come in agreed that these are unprecedented times.
“There were some difficult conversations, but they have all agreed which is huge for this club going forward. Going forward I suspect it will be one in, one out so if a player retires or wants to leave we will replace him with a player of similar or better quality.”
Earlier this month, Diamond told RugbyPass that he had left room for further recruitment and hinted that Sale had room beneath the salary cap accomodate Tuilagi.
“If players do become available of a high calibre, as long as we are not contravening any regulations, then we will look at other players,” he said.
“Financially we would be able to do that, however, we are going through a very intense schedule to get these [2019-20] Premiership games played and we are going to be playing Saturday, Wednesday, Sunday by the looks of it three or four times.”
Sale are due to resume their Premiership campaign on August 14 at the Twickenham Stoop against Harlequins, the same opponents they are poised to face in the Premiership Rugby Cup final.