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Manu Tuilagi will make his long-awaited comeback from a ruptured Achilles tendon when Sale face Gallagher Premiership leaders Bristol on Friday.

Tuilagi is poised to make his first appearance since September after being named on the bench for the AJ Bell Stadium showdown.

Sharks director of rugby Alex Sanderson said this week that the England centre looks “scarily powerful” and “strong as a bull” in training.

Tuilagi’s return is a major boost for Sale, who are guaranteed a place in the Premiership play-offs and mathematically could finish as high as first.

Given he is an automatic selection when fit, it is also a big lift for England as they look towards summer Tests against the United States and Canada.

The British and Irish Lions will be monitoring his fitness carefully as well in the event that one of their centres is injured on the tour to South Africa.

Tuilagi was left out of the original 37-man squad because of concerns over his lack of game time, but Warren Gatland has said he is still on the Lions’ radar.