Tuilagi primed for England return as pivotal Wales tussle beckons

Ross McLean
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New Zealand v England
Tuilagi last played for England in June 2014 (Source: Getty)

Powerhouse centre Manu Tuilagi is set to train with England this week before potentially making his international comeback in the likely Six Nations title decider against Wales at Twickenham next month.

Leicester director of rugby Richard Cockerill, who holds reservations about the 24-year-old’s quickfire return to the England fold after an injury-plagued campaign, confirmed Tuilagi’s position after his side’s 47-20 Premiership victory over London Irish yesterday.

“We will have to see. They have all the power so there is no point in having an argument,” said Cockerill. “If Eddie [Jones] wants to play him he will play him. That’s the agreement, he is in the EPS [Elite Player Squad].

“I’m not stupid enough to have a fight I can’t win, but England are playing well so there’s no need to pick him.”

Tuilagi is expected to return to Welford Road for Leicester’s crunch match at home to second-placed Exeter on Sunday, while the prospect remains for him to feature for England for the first time since 2014 against Wales on 12 March.

Scrum-half Ben Youngs, meanwhile, expects England to face the full force of Warren Gatland’s Wales when the two sides do battle.

Should Grand Slam-chasing England beat Wales, who still have to face winless Italy, and France come unstuck against Scotland at Murrayfield, Eddie Jones’s men will win the championship, their first since 2011, with a match to spare.

“Wales are consistently a good team in this tournament. Traditionally they get better as the tournament goes on,” said No9 Youngs. “But we’re at home and we’re looking forward to an almighty game.”