Sale poised to schmooze Manu Tuilagi after 'insulting' first offer

Alex Sanderson is optimistic that negotiations with Manu Tuilagi this Wednesday will finally sway the England midfielder into committing his future to Sale beyond the end of this season.

The Sharks director of rugby is poised to present the soon-to-be 32-year-old with a significantly improved contract offer that he hopes will be enough to convince their former marquee salary cap player to stay on in Manchester rather than take up more lucrative offers in France and Japan.

Dropped at the start of the recent Guinness Six Nations and then unavailable for England selection following a red card while on mid-February duty with Sale, Tuilagi still managed to work his way back into the Test-level fold and was a starter in the round five match away to Ireland in Dublin on March 18.

Tuilagi has since returned to club training at Sale ahead of this Saturday’s European Challenge Cup round of 16 assignment at Cardiff and Sanderson is hoping that a midweek lunch in Lymm will now provide the perfect backdrop towards successfully convincing his in-demand player that his club future is best served by remaining on with the Sharks.

It was the summer of 2020 when the initial pandemic salary cuts across the Premiership resulted in Sale swooping for Tuilagi on a one-year deal after he took umbrage with what was going on at Leicester. Those negotiations happened on Steve Diamond’s watch but within three months of Sanderson becoming director of rugby, hands were shaken with Tuilagi in April 2021 on a two-year extension.

Those talks have now come around again with that deal set to expire, but under different circumstances as the across-the-league salary cap reduction now only allows clubs to have just one and not two marquee players. It left Sale originally going in with what Sanderson now describes as an “insulting” offer, but alterations in the club’s planning for 2023/24 will now see the DoR table a much better deal when the pair meet this Wednesday in a restaurant in a Cheshire market town.

“We want him, he wants to stay,” began Sanderson. “We had no money, then we had a bit of money, now we have got twice as much money than we did have. I’m going to Lymm tomorrow to sit down with him to see if it’s enough. I know he wants to stay, so this is just a question of whether his family can survive on it and how much he is willing to sacrifice. I guess I will be buying lunch.”

Asked if there was a specific date for a decision to be taken one way or another, Sanderson added: “Not a deadline so to speak, as soon as possible if we can. I would say the next couple of weeks, and he’d want it wrapped up as well.”

The DoR then went into the mechanics of how Sale now have the ability to offer a much-improved deal compared to their opening gambit earlier this season. “First off, there was the necessity for what the squad needs long term, so we needed a robust youngish centre that fitted in with the demographic of the squad and there is money for that position and having Manu allied to that.

“He was a marquee player, let’s not forget, so if you take him out of a marquee status, they go off what his previous three years’ salary was. That is taken into account on average so if we were to offer him what we had left in the salary cap at that time for prediction for next year with everyone staying on, with everyone who was contracted at that point in time wanting to stay on, it was to the tune of around £70,000, something like that, but that equated out to be like £250,000, £300,000.

“And even then, why would he take £70,000 when he is being offered when he has been rumoured to be offered £400,000 or whatever? So, it’s insulting that, innit? Insulting to offer someone that, but the effect of the cap was far too great, and he could see all of that. But like I say, these things if you have a will and want for them, they have a way of kind of finding a way.

“So there has been a bit of movement in terms of who we are able to maintain next year that has freed more money up in the cap as well as injury dispensation that allows further money to be released into the cap which has meant we have been able to go back to him with a significantly higher offer than what we were six, seven months ago.