Manu Tuilagi content to take on new role as England fan ahead of France move

Manu Tuilagi insists there are no regrets over his international career as he prepares to leave the English game.

The England centre will play what could be his final home game for Sale on Friday before he joins French Top 14 club Bayonne in the summer.

With overseas-based players not considered for selection by England, the 32-year-old’s 60th cap – earned against France in March – looks set to be his last.

It is a figure that could have been much higher but for numerous injury problems, not to mention some disciplinary issues, but Tuilagi looks back on his time in a national jersey with satisfaction.

Tuilagi told the PA news agency: “Whatever you plan or what you want, sometimes you don’t get that, and that’s just life.

“I’m just so happy. I can’t believe I’ve played 60 times for England. I’m just thankful and blessed that I was able to play that amount of times.

“Once is amazing, but to even get over 10 is unbelievable.”

Manu Tuilagi
Tuilagi hopes to sign off at Sale by winning the Premiership (Mike Egerton/PA)

Tuilagi feels the time was probably right to draw a line under an England career that began in 2011.

“I think so,” he said. “It was a tough decision, but it’s another part of my journey. I’m getting old as well.

“The best thing is that we have players that are getting there nicely, the likes of Ollie Lawrence, ‘Slady’ (Henry Slade), those guys. They’ll be huge for England for a long time.

“I think the England team at the moment is unbelievable – the way that we finished off in the Six Nations. For me now, to be a fan and watch, I can’t wait. It’s exciting.”

Manu Tuilagi scores a try against Italy
Tuilagi earned 60 caps for England (Adam Davy/PA)

Tuliagi admits he would not say no to England again, were the Rugby Football Union to change policy and make players based abroad eligible for selection, but he accepts that seems unlikely.

He said: “What will be will be. If it does happen, it’ll be brilliant. If it doesn’t, it’s just life, I guess.

“But it’d be nice for players to be able to play anywhere and still play for England.”

For now, Tuilagi’s immediate focus is on a winning send-off with Sale, the club he joined in 2020 after 11 years with Leicester.

Coincidentally the Sharks host the Tigers on Friday before wrapping up their regular season campaign at Saracens.

Currently sixth in the Gallagher Premiership, the Sharks remain in contention for a top-four play-off spot and a shot at the title.

Tuilagi said: “It’s emotional. It’s been an unbelievable four years and I’ve loved every minute of it.

“We’re excited to get out on Friday night. It’s a massive game against Leicester.

“It’s just going out there giving it all we’ve got for hopefully the last four games.”