The Italian out-half was stretchered off in the 56th minute at The Stoop after his high-ball fumble was followed by Tuilagi clattering into him.
Wayne Barnes decided that the clash was a rugby incident, which allowed Tuilagi to play on without sanction, and the match referee’s decision was backed up by the absence of any subsequent citing for the England midfielder.
This lack of sanction for Tuilagi during the game fired up Twitter at the time, with numerous fans suggesting that the Sale back should have been red-carded. However, Sanderson fired back three days later and claimed the sport is drowning in too much negativity.
“As I said after the game I thought it was a brilliant bit of refereeing by Wayne Barnes,” explained the Sale director of rugby when asked at his midweek media briefing ahead of next Saturday’s European meeting with Toulouse to revisit last weekend’s fallout.
“It was a rugby collision and I think the game, the media in particular, focuses too much on the negative as opposed to the spectacle and the sport. The other one you are probably alluding to that has had similar articles is Owen (Farrell of Saracens), but why not celebrate the drop goal as opposed to what was not an intentional high tackle?
“Everyone focuses on the negative. If we want to make the game better, if we want to make it more interesting, if we want people to be involved and kids to love it, then focus on the positives. The positive from that game (Sale against Harlequins) was that it was a really good contest in really wet conditions and it was entertaining yet we are still coming back this [the Tuilagi tackle].”
Further quizzed as to why he believed this negativity about rugby was seemingly so prevalent, Sanderson added: “I think it is fashionable. I think the concussion thing has been fashionable – and rightly so because it is looking after people but it has gathered so much momentum now that it becomes a talking point.
“I still struggle to understand the needle has swung so far one way now that people are waiting for tackles like that (from Tuilagi) as opposed to getting on with the game. They are waiting for the opportunity to give comments and it is human nature to focus on negatives.
“That’s proven but, like I say, we are all in the mode here (at Sale) where we want the game to be better, to be invested in and followed, loved. There is nothing to love about putting on slow-motion replays of something that was nowhere near intentional.”