England remain tight-lipped on Tuilagi selection for Six Nations showdown against Wales

Ross McLean
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Leicester Tigers v Exeter Chiefs - Aviva Premiership
Tuilagi could be unleashed in the final quarter against Wales (Source: Getty)

Defence coach Paul Gustard insists that powerhouse centre Manu Tuilagi will play an integral future role for England but has remained tight-lipped on whether he will feature against Wales on Saturday.

The 24-year-old, who last played international rugby in June 2014, was included in the 33-man training squad that congregated at Pennyhill Park on Sunday ahead of England’s likely Six Nations title decider at Twickenham this weekend.

Tuilagi played 80 minutes for club side Leicester on Sunday, scoring his first Premiership try for almost two years, although Tigers’ director of rugby Richard Cockerill continues to harbour concerns over a rapid return to England duty post-injury.

The option remains for head coach Eddie Jones to unleash Tuilagi, who he views exclusively as a No12 despite him playing the majority of his career at outside centre, from the bench during the final quarter against Warren Gatland’s Wales.

“Manu has played a limited amount of rugby, that’s for certain,” said Gustard. “He’s a very talented player and I think we just want to try and integrate him long term.

“Irrespective of what happens in these remaining Six Nations matches, it’s important that he gets integrated back into this new England. The more exposure he has within this environment will serve him better in the long term.”

Should Grand Slam-chasing England beat Wales and then Scotland dispatch France at Murrayfield on Sunday, the Red Rose will claim their first Six Nations title since 2011 with a round of matches remaining.

If both England and France prevail in their fixtures, the championship will go down to the wire although an advantageous points difference would see England assume the role of favourites going into their clash in Paris.