England: Manu Tuilagi credits sleep as huge benefactor of staying fit as poor recovery led to injury

Manu Tuilagi hopes that getting more SLEEP will end his injury nightmare and prolong his career as Sale and England star admits poor recovery could have led to spate of setbacks

  • Manu Tuilagi reveals recovery is the key to the England man staying fit for action
  • Tuilagi says chat with his wife forced him to make important lifestyle changes 
  • Rugby star admits he has learned lessons from the injuries that he’s suffered

Manu Tuilagi has revealed the secret to his latest mission to stay fit and prolonged his injury-disrupted career – more sleep.

Sale’s 30-year-old England centre missed the recent Six Nations campaign with yet another minor hamstring niggle, having been in camp and primed to start against Wales. The training-ground setback forced him into a fresh period of rehab and reflection – seeking ways to avoid so much time spent out of action.

The verdict Tuilagi reached was that he needs to focus more than ever on recovery from all intense physical exertion. It has meant more time in the sauna – and more time in bed. ‘I think sleep is a big thing for me,’ he said, in the aftermath of Sale’s Champions Cup quarter-final defeat at the hands of Racing 92 in Paris on Sunday – when he produced a powerful, try-scoring, 80-minute performance in a losing cause.

Manu Tuilagi admits he didn’t used to sleep which could have led to his muscular injuries

Tuilagi (right) was ruled out of England's recent Six Nations campaign due to a hamstring issue

Tuilagi (right) was ruled out of England’s recent Six Nations campaign due to a hamstring issue

‘I never used to sleep. I used to sleep really late. For an athlete you need – for me – at least seven hours. That’s what I looked at when the latest hammy happened. If you keep doing the same thing, you are going to get the same result. So you’ve got to change something.’ 

Asked if he had sought any outside advice, Tuilagi added: ‘I had a chat with my wife, actually. I was talking to her, telling her about how I woke up 20 minutes, 30 minutes before we had the walk-throughs and then you get into training.

‘You have to take ownership of it and be honest with yourself, because only you know what’s happened. My wife was saying, “You’re an athlete, you’ve got to sleep”. We had that chat and then you’ve just got to be honest with yourself. You’ve got to change something if you want a different result.

‘I’ve got two young kids. I wake up in the morning and say to my wife, “How was your sleep?” and it’s, “No good”. So in the night times, I’m alright, then I have fun with my kids when I get home from training. Get home and there’s no rest!’ 

Tuilagi has long since come to terms with the stop-start nature of his career, punctuated by so many injuries. He is convinced that all the difficult times have brought some benefits – including the gradual realisation that there is a need for patience and restraint.

Sale Sharks centre Tuilagi admits a chat with his wife helped him to see the error of his ways

Sale Sharks centre Tuilagi admits a chat with his wife helped him to see the error of his ways

‘You have to listen your body,’ he said. ‘But as an athlete, sometimes you get too excited and you just want to be out there on the field, so you ignore what your body is telling you. You’ve just got to listen to it, because if your body says no, you can’t do anything. I just want to keep playing, week-in, week-out.

‘I am really thankful for those injuries that I came through. In life, you’re going to go through some hard times and that’s a good thing, because you can only learn from that, as a feeling. You can’t learn from someone else’s mistakes, because you don’t feel it. But when you have that, you’ve got to embrace it. It’s not good at the time but you look back and think ‘yeah, it was good, that.’