I will miss playing for England - Tuilagi

Manu Tuilagi in action for Sale Sharks
Manu Tuilagi will make his final home appearance for Sale Sharks when they host Leicester Tigers on Friday night [Getty Images]

France-bound Manu Tuilagi admits he will miss playing for England but is excited about the team's future.

The 32-year-old centre is leaving Sale Sharks at the end of the season and has signed a two-year deal with Top 14 side Bayonne.

His 60th cap in England’s Six Nations loss to France in March ended a 13-year international career following the Samoan-born star’s naturalisation.

RFU rules state players leaving the Premiership are not eligible for international selection.

Tuilagi told BBC North West Tonight: "It's a tough one because you still want to play [for England] but I've learned that what you want, you don't always get. I think I'll miss it, but now I'll be a fan.

"The last two games of the Six Nations, Ireland then going to France, taking it right to the wire - it's exciting. I am excited to see the boys keep that growth going, I think there is so much growth in that team. As a fan I am so excited."

Tuilagi's final home game for Sale on Friday (19:45 BST) is against Leicester Tigers, the club at which he spent the first 11 years of his professional career.

"What are the odds of that?" he said. "It will be very special. My time here has been amazing. It will stay with me forever."

The Sharks are trying to secure a top-four finish in their final two games, against the Tigers and Saracens, and Tuilagi said "it would be a bonus" if he could leave England as a champion.

"For six-to-eight weeks we've said we have to perform every weekend. It's no different this weekend, coming up to the business end of the season."

Tuilagi said "the unknown is the most exciting thing" about signing with Bayonne, adding: "It's something new... I don't know what it's going to be like. It's another part of the journey, I am excited."