ENGLAND seem certain to be without either of their first-choice centres for the autumn internationals after Leicester’s Manu Tuilagi became the latest player to join a rapidly growing injury list.
Tuilagi is facing the possibility of months on the sidelines and may yet require surgery after suffering a torn pectoral muscle in Saturday’s Premiership win over Newcastle.
Saracens’ Brad Barritt, with whom Tuilagi has established a formidable partnership, has already been ruled out of the November fixtures at Twickenham against Australia, Argentina and New Zealand.
Leicester director of rugby Richard Cockerill said of the 22-year-old Tigers star: “Manu has a suspected torn pec muscle in his chest. He’s going for further investigation and it is hard to tell how long he will be out, but it’s going to be weeks leading to months potentially.
“These things happen. Hopefully, he will not be out for too long. Six to eight weeks at best but it may be longer depending how much damage there is.”
Tuilagi only returned to the Leicester side for the first time this season at the weekend, having needed time to recover from a shoulder injury sustained representing the British and Irish Lions during the summer.
He missed the first two matches of England’s Six Nations campaign earlier this year due to a hamstring problem, but scored a try on his return in France and played alongside Barritt in the games against Italy and Wales.
His absence is the latest blow to England head coach Stuart Lancaster, who has now lost three key players in as many weeks, with Tuilagi’s Leicester team-mate Tom Croft ruled out for the season with knee ligament damage.
Wales received better news yesterday when it emerged captain Sam Warburton is set to return from injury for Cardiff Blues on Friday.
It is five weeks ahead of his original schedule and, further setbacks notwithstanding, means he should be fit for the autumn programme against South Africa, Argentina, Tonga and Australia.
England autumn internationals
■ 2 Nov: Australia
■ 9 Nov: Argentina
■ 16 Nov: New Zealand