England have received downbeat initial assessments of the injuries sustained by Manu Tuilagi and Courtney Lawes in Sale’s 34-14 Gallagher Premiership victory at Northampton.
Tuilagi and Lawes limped off in the opening quarter at Franklin’s Gardens and both are now doubts for the final Six Nations match against Italy on October 31 and the Autumn Nations Cup that begins a fortnight later.
Sale boss Steve Diamond revealed that Tuilagi, who has been a success since arriving from Leicester in time for the restart, may face a significant spell on the sidelines after damaging his Achilles during a muscular carry.
Tuilagi’s contract expires at the end of next season and the Sharks are hoping to tie England’s blockbusting centre down to a longer deal.
“Somebody landed on it. We’ll be assessing it overnight. I don’t think it’s clever. I don’t think it’s the best,” Diamond said.
“Manu has settled in so well. We were having a bit of crack this week about how he’s never played so many games, maybe that was a jinx.
“Whatever it takes to get Manu back, we’ll do it, however long it takes. We’ll comfort him over the next month or two and chat about a long-term career with us. We’re delighted about what he’s done for us so far.”
The early outlook on Lawes is also bleak after the Saints lock hurt his right ankle after challenging for a high ball, catching his studs in the turf on landing and twisting awkwardly.
Like Tuilagi, he was in considerable discomfort and had to be helped from the pitch.
“Courtney has an ankle injury and it looks pretty ginger. I wouldn’t be overly hopeful of a fast return – he sustained a fairly heavy blow,” Northampton director of rugby Chris Boyd said.
“He’ll get a scan. It’s unfortunate for Courtney and maybe in the short term unfortunate for England.”
Both players would have been heavily involved with England this autumn as Eddie Jones prepares to name a preliminary squad for the Barbarians games on Monday.
Apart from the injury to Tuilagi and Cobus Wiese suffering a hyper-extended knee, it was a rewarding night for Sale as they claimed the bonus-point win that keeps them in the hunt for a top-four place.
“We’re delighted really because there was a lot of pressure on us. The four clubs pushing Exeter are all at the races. If we hadn’t won here then I think we’d have been out of it,” Diamond said.
“I think we’ll make the top four. Playing away doesn’t frighten us at the moment. If we get into the play-offs that would be a good stepping stone in the evolution in the club.”