Manu Tuilagi can be the difference between Sale challenging and becoming champions when the Premiership resumes.
That is the belief at Sharks, who received confirmation yesterday that their star recruit will not be lost to England until after the league’s grand final on October 24.
“With the squad we have we’ve got to be aiming for the top,” Sale centre Sam James said. “I don’t think we’ll accept anything less.”
Approval yesterday by World Rugby of an amended calendar confirms that England will play the final game of their 2020 Six Nations campaign in Italy on Oct 31.
They will then contest the eight-team Nations Cup between Nov 14 and Dec 5 meaning Tuilagi, if selected, will miss the first three weeks of the new Premiership season.
But it is the nine remaining rounds of the 2019/20 campaign that have the full attention of the player and his ambitious new club, who lie five points off Exeter in second place.
James said: “It is a statement of intent by the owners moving us into a world class training facility and we’re backing ourselves to take that next step and win titles.
“Manu is a world class player and we all agree that If we want to be pushing for top spot and winning the Premiership he’s the man to have.”
James, who toured with England in 2017, said that team boss Steve Diamond phoned all the Sale centres as a courtesy before signing Tuilagi.
“Was I put out? Not a bit,” he said. “Manu is a fantastic addition to the squad who I’m looking forward to learning from. He has slotted in really well and already lifted standards in training.
“The aim is to hit the ground running, excite our fans and make it difficult for teams who come up north.”
Aug 14-Oct 24: 2019/20 Premiership
Oct 24: Ireland v Italy (6 Nations)
Oct 25: England v Barbarians
Oct 31: Italy v England, Wales v Scotland, France v Ireland (6 Nations)
Nov 14: England v Fiji (Nations Cup)
Nov 21: England v Ireland (NC)
2020/21 Premiership kicks off
Nov 28: Wales v England (NC)
Dec 5: Nations Cup final