Sir Ian McGeechan
Manu Tuilagi carrying the ball for Sale - Sale can still benefit from Manu Tuilagi's x-factor despite a low-key outing on the Premiership's return
Sale lost the first match of the Premiership's restart away at Harlequins on Friday night Credit: GETTY IMAGES

It was certainly not the debut we were expecting. Especially given Steve Diamond’s pre-game promise that his new and improved Sale team were going to “run over people”. But I suspect Manu Tuilagi’s move to the North West will, in the long run, work out well for all concerned.

Sale are going to have to learn lessons from Friday night’s defeat at Harlequins, however. 

三级成人视频It was a bizarre match - and a bizarre use of their new high-profile signing. You would have got very long odds on Tuilagi’s first touch at the Stoop coming after 21 minutes. Basic errors at the breakdown, and poor decision-making from the half-backs Faf de Klerk and Robert du Preez, meant they just never got him into the game.

I think Sale tried to be a bit too cute. Knowing Quins would be wary of him, they tried to use him as a decoy a bit too often. Twice in the first half - once from first phase lineout ball and once from a scrum in the midfield where they split the backs - they opted to ignore Tuilagi when they could have got him involved. 

It was a mistake. Eddie Jones, the England coach, showed the best way to use Tuilagi is to get him involved as quickly as possible. On his international return in Dublin last year England hit their wrecking ball centre with an over-the-top lineout in the first minute which set the tone for the entire contest.

You could see Quins were expecting something similar. So anxious were they to deny Tuilagi any space that Chris Ashton gave away a first-half penalty, coming off his line too quickly. His running line also helped to create the space for Sale’s try at the start of the second half. But it was far too little.

Diamond will be disappointed but as I say, I think the move will work in the long run. Sale are too good, and have too many good players, not to work out how to use such a devastating asset. If they can get a bit of momentum they are well capable of lifting the Premiership crown this season.

三级成人视频I actually thought it was extremely encouraging to see Tuilagi named at 13 for Friday’s game. 

三级成人视频He has been used often as a 12 by both Leicester Tigers and England since coming back from his longstanding injury problems at the start of last year. And he is very good there. But he is so much more than a crash-ball merchant. 

Tuilagi is a clever player; incredibly dangerous one-on-one. He is also more versatile than people sometimes give him credit for. He can run through people, yes, but he can also run at shoulders, and put others into space. His passing and awareness are excellent. He is also an underrated reader of the game, capable of late changes of direction, of getting on the end of broken passages of play. I don’t think that area of his game gets highlighted enough. 

三级成人视频In the long run I see him switching between 12 and 13 for Sale, depending on the situation. Tuilagi was at 13 when England beat the All Blacks at Twickenham in 2012 and he was completely unplayable. I was there that day and they just could not handle him in the outside channel. To make the most of him you have to play with quick, front-foot ball. That is when he is at his most dangerous. 

Manu Tuilagi tore New Zealand apart during England's victory 2012 victory at Twickenham Credit: GETTY IMAGES

三级成人视频At 29, I think Tuilagi potentially has a golden few years ahead of him, provided he can stay injury-free. I certainly don't see his behaviour being an issue. Of course, he’s made some high-profile mistakes in the past, as many young players do. Some have brought up the fact that he’s reuniting with Denny Solomona at Sale as a potential cause for concern, given they were once sent home by England for drinking. I think Diamond handled that question brilliantly when it was put to him after Tuilagi signed. He made light of it. He wasn’t defensive at all. “Manu and Denny have a bit of a reputation from then and I’ve told them they can only go to those bars in future if I get an invite.”

Diamond is a canny operator. A one-club man (well, near enough, bar a stint at Saracens) who knows Sale inside out, having played over 300 games and spent the best part of 20 years there as a coach. He has put together a strong core of players who could now be a settled group for four to five years. As that evolves, collective standards should fall into place as the players take more responsibility for their actions on and off the field. As long as Diamond can get the players to buy into that vision, and I think he can, discipline should not be an issue.

三级成人视频Quins outplayed Sale on Friday night and were well worth the win. A couple of early Tom Curry turnovers aside, the hosts were more accurate at the breakdown, allowing their half-backs to control the game in terms of territory and possession. Sale made far too many errors, and never really adapted to the referee’s interpretation of the new breakdown directives (they shouldn’t have been a surprise given what we have seen in Super Rugby Aotearoa). I thought Luke Pearce had an excellent game. But the upshot was they never got the ball away from the base with any control. Only when they do that will we start to see Tuilagi influence proceedings. I think we will.

Tuilagi is 29 now. He is not a young kid any more. He has been around the block. After a 20-odd year family association with Leicester he has cut the apron strings. This is his chance to forge a new path for himself. Sale is a blank canvas. None of his siblings played there, or won trophies there. This is a project he can really invest in personally. Sale, like England, can benefit hugely from the Tuilagi x-factor.