Tuilagi a doubt for Six Nations after undergoing chest surgery

ENGLAND centre Manu Tuilagi faces a race against time to be fit for the start of next year’s Six Nations campaign, according to Leicester boss Richard Cockerill.

The 22-year-old tore a pectoral muscle in his club’s 31-6 win against Newcastle in September and was forced to undergo surgery this week following a setback in his rehabilitation.

And Tigers director of rugby Cockerill fears Tuilagi, who has scored 10 tries in 21 Tests for England, could still be sidelined when Stuart Lancaster’s team travel to France for the Six Nations opener on 1 February.

“Manu has not been able to recover fully from the injury with rehab and had surgery to repair that,” said former Red Rose hooker Cockerill.

“He had a reaction right at the end of the rehab process so it was the right thing to do. He will be out for probably three months.

“That’s disappointing because we hoped to have him back soon and it is a blow for him and for us.”

A more immediate concern for Lancaster will be the continued absence of prop Alex Corbisiero, who is one of 15 players released back to their clubs and will play no part against world champions New Zealand on Saturday having suffered an injury setback.

Corbisiero aggravated a knee injury in training yesterday that kept him out of the wins over Australia and Argentina and has returned to Northampton.

With Saracens front row Mako Vunipola also unavailable, Lancaster has retained Joe Marler and Matt Mullan, but injured wings Marland Yarde and Christian Wade have been released.