Salsa dancing is aiding Manu Tuilagi’s recovery from an Achilles injury, with the England star targeting a return to action by the end of the domestic season.
The 43-cap centre tore the tendon in September while in action for Sale Sharks and the severity of the knock has kept him out of this year’s Guinness Six Nations.
Tuilagi remains around eight weeks away from a return but could yet force his way on to his second British & Irish Lions tour should he prove his fitness in a Sale shirt.
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And salsa is proving a valuable tool for the 29-year-old, who will hope to showcase his dancing feet on the field when the opportunity arises.
“Manu’s walking and learning salsa, believe it or not,” said Sale director of rugby Alex Sanderson. “If you’re hiking and doing salsa you can’t be far off playing rugby.
“The salsa is for his ankle and a wife of one of the players is taking [coronavirus] tests because she’s able to teach him salsa, so he’s been learning that.”
Tuilagi is not the first Guinness Six Nations star to turn his hand to the dancefloor – but the most famous examples to date have been once boots have been hung up.
Ben Cohen, Gavin Henson and Thom Evans are among the seven players to have taken part in Strictly Come Dancing and the sport is yet to boast a winner, with Matt Dawson coming closest when he finished runner-up in 2006.
Whether Tuilagi could end that run in the years to come remains to be seen – surviving unscathed from a display in front of his teammates is perhaps his most pressing concern.
“He’s going to perform for the boys in around five weeks,” Sanderson said. “I haven’t watched him salsa, but he’s good with his feet for a big guy.”
Tuilagi’s most recent England appearance came in last season’s Championship against Wales, when the hard-hitting centre scored his side’s second try – and was later sent off – in a 33-30 triumph which helped Eddie Jones’ men secure the title.
The tables were turned on Saturday as Wales claimed the bragging rights to keep their Grand Slam dreams on track and all but end a Tuilagi-less England’s hopes of defending their crown.
The remaining two matches will come too soon for the former Leicester Tigers man to make an impact but Sanderson cannot wait to welcome him back into the Sharks ranks.
“It’s about seven to eight weeks for him, maybe,” he said. “Definitely he’ll play again this season.
“I went for a 7.5km hike with him around Macclesfield Forest last Friday and he was on great form.
“It’s good to see him up and about. He’s a good lad so he’s adding energy to the place.”