Manu Tuilagi has been looking “scarily powerful” as the England centre prepares to makes his long-awaited comeback tomorrow night.

Tuilagi has been sidelined since September because of an Achilles injury but is on course to claim a bench role when Sale host Bristol in a clash between Gallagher Premiership title contenders at the AJ Bell Stadium.

Sharks director of rugby Alex Sanderson revealed that he had to intervene during a training session on Tuesday to stop Tuilagi rampaging through tackles.

“Manu’s in great shape. He looks massive. Not out of shape massive, just strong as a bull,” Sanderson said.

“The lads did some live tackling and he basically gave them bit of a bump. I had to stop him running because he was just running through them. It’s really exciting to see.

“He looked scary out there. Scarily powerful.

“Manu is up for selection on Friday but with the caveat that this is not something we want to rush, it really isn’t.

“Take from that what you will in terms of the minutes he could play if he was selected.

“A lot of it is taken on the advice of the medical staff and his own feelings of confidence going into the game. For me, I’d back him to go on the Lions tour.”

Tuilagi’s season-long battle with injury ruled him out of the England’s autumn and Six Nations campaigns, but he returns in time to reinforce the final stage of Sale’s title push.

The Sharks sit third in the table with three rounds remaining and could overtake Exeter in second place, thereby securing a home semi-final.

A fit Tuilagi would have been a certainty for the Lions tour to South Africa that departs next month, but he could still face the Springboks if there is an injury in Warren Gatland’s platoon of centres and the 30-year-old comes through Sale’s run-in unharmed.