Sale boss Alex Sanderson said on Wednesday he was “frustrated” that Manu Tuilagi could face yet another lengthy spell on the sidelines after suffering a hamstring injury while playing for England.
A scan has revealed Tuilagi suffered a grade-three tear while scoring the opening try in England’s 27-26 win over world champions South Africa at Twickenham this past weekend.
No sooner had Tuilagi crossed the Springboks’ line in the seventh minute then he was limping off the field to be replaced by Max Malins.
The 30-year-old powerhouse centre is now set to see a specialist in the coming days to decide if he needs surgery.
Should Tuilagi avoid an operation he may still be out for six to eight weeks, but if surgery is required he could be out for eight to 12 weeks – a lay-off that could affect his availability for the Six Nations, with England starting their campaign away to Scotland on 5 February.
Complicating matters is that Tuilagi took the field at Twickenham on Saturday with a heavily strapped right leg, indicating he may have had a pre-existing injury.
Sale director of rugby Sanderson, however, insisted the northwest club were not blaming England for the injury blighted Tuilagi’s latest setback, saying a pre-match scan indicated the midfielder had been fit.
“Apparently the scan showed a grade-zero hamstring tear and I believe we’ve been shown evidence of that prior to the game,” Sanderson said.
“I’m sure they wouldn’t have pushed him through training if anything had shown up on that scan. They’ve gone off the scan as a grade zero.
“You’d love someone to blame in this circumstance. You’d love to point the finger at someone and say, ‘It’s your fault’,” he added.
“Manu is injury prone, as we all know. Regardless of where he’s at in terms of what the scan has said is wrong with his hamstring, you have to preempt injury with Manu,” Sanderson said. “That’s my understanding of him.
He added: “I’m frustrated, of course I’m frustrated, but I can’t say it’s England’s fault because all the medical advice would suggest this is a one-off.
“I’m really gutted. I’m gutted for him and gutted because we were managing him well and then something like that happens.”
Tuilagi’s career has been interrupted by a succession of injuries, the most recent a torn achilles tendon that contributed to an 18-month absence from England duty that only ended a few weeks ago.
“It would be tough if he was 24 or 25 and that was his further break into the international scene,” said Sanderson. “But he’s taken it pretty much in his stride.
“It’s happened and it’s not a career-defining or even a season-defining injury for him. It shouldn’t affect the back end of the season, which will be big for him, big for us and big for England. He should recover pretty strong. He’s a fast healer.”
© Agence France-Presse