George Ford has admitted Leicester’s loss could be England’s gain after Manu Tuilagi’s defection to Sale.
Tuilagi was one of five men to leave the Tigers earlier this month after failing to agree a new post-coronavirus deal, and was swiftly snapped up by the Sharks.
That came as a huge blow to Leicester, where he emerged from the Academy ranks along with fly-half Ford – but his England team-mate can at least console himself with the knowledge that the powerful centre will still be available for his country after opting not to play abroad and take himself out of the international reckoning.
Ford said: “Hopefully with Manu still playing for a club in England, that gives him the availability and option to do so.
The type of guy I know Manu is, he'll go there and play well and we'll see the best of him, so it's positive from an England point of viewGeorge Ford
“But it’s like anything, England selection, you have got to go and play well for your club first. Manu at Sale, the type of guy I know Manu is, he’ll go there and play well and we’ll see the best of him, so it’s positive from an England point of view.”
Tuilagi’s exit from Welford Road came after players were asked to take a 25 per cent cut in wages and while most – like Ford – renegotiated their deals, he, Kyle Eastmond, Telusa Veainu, Greg Bateman and Noel Reid could not and chose to leave the Gallagher Premiership club.
Ford was sorry to see him go, but acknowledged the difficulty of the situation with the Tigers having to cut their cloth accordingly as a result financial impact of the suspension of top-flight rugby, which is due to resume next month.
He said: “Look, he’s a world-class player and he’s a brilliant guy, so he is going to be missed round here.
“He’s been Leicester through and through all his career – I was in the Academy with him – but it’s the situation which has arisen, Manu’s made his decision, the club has made its decision and it’s about moving on now.
“I’m sure Manu will go to Sale and be the player he is and be very good for Sale. We have to look forward and crack on with the guys who are here.”
Ford had to remain patient as he attempted to resolve his own future, but insisted he never really considered the prospect of cutting his ties with the club to which he returned for a second spell in 2017.
He said: “To be honest, it wasn’t really in my mind about moving on, it just took some time to get it sorted, that’s all.”
Meanwhile, the Tigers are doing all they can to support 20-year-old forward Taylor Gough, who suffered spinal injuries in a road accident last month.
Ford said: “It was pretty devastating news in terms of what’s happened to Taylor. When we all found out, it was pretty shocking to say the least, but we have all had contact with him and sent him messages.
“He’s back up and talking to us all and he’s got his family around him, so we just hope his recovery goes as well as it possibly can now.”