Sale Sharks have announced the signing of England international Manu Tuilagi until the end of the 2020-21 season following his departure from Leicester Tigers.
The British and Irish Lions centre left Leicester after refusing to agree reduced terms in line with new salary cap rules.
“After discussions on Friday, all parties — Leicester Tigers, Manu Tuilagi and Sale Sharks — agreed that the player was a free agent and was able to enter into negotiations with another club,” director of rugby Steve Diamond said in a statement.
“Manu will be a fantastic commercial and playing addition to our squad and I am looking forward to seeing him join up with the lads at Carrington this week.”
Sources had told ESPN that big-spending PRO D2 club Beziers were interested in the 29-year-old but a move to France would have made Tuilagi ineligible for international selection after the Rugby Football Union (RFU) made clear they wouldn’t change their rules for the centre.
Clubs voted last month to reduce the salary cap from the 2021-22 campaign until 2023-24, with the ceiling for senior players set at £5 million, down from £6.4m, due to the impact of the coronavirus pandemic.
Players were offered long-term deals on reduced terms with clubs looking to take advantage of a provision that sees only 75% of the wages of a contracted player count towards the revised cap.
The Gallagher Premiership will restart on Aug. 14 with Sale taking on Harlequins.
The remaining nine rounds of matches will take place over six weeks with the playoffs and final on Oct. 24.
Sale were in second place when the season was suspended due to the coronavirus pandemic, five points adrift of leaders Exeter Chiefs.