FIT-AGAIN England centre Manu Tuilagi has been told that the onus is on him to prove he deserves to be recalled to the starting XV for Sunday’s RBS Six Nations showdown with Ireland in Dublin.
Tuilagi had been widely tipped to return in place of either Billy Twelvetrees or Brad Barritt for a match that looks pivotal to England’s hopes of winning the championship for only the second time in a decade.
But the Gloucester man’s try-scoring debut in Saturday’s encouraging victory over Scotland and Barritt’s key role in marshalling the defence have left England’s coaching staff agonising over their midfield selection.
“You have three guys and each of them bring special attributes,” said defence coach Mike Catt.
“It is great Billy performed the way he did against Scotland. Manu has been out of the game for three or four weeks. We’ll see how they all train and we will go accordingly from there.
“If the guys have performed exceptionally well on the weekend, the guys coming in need to make sure they have the tempo and up the intensity to really put their hands forward.”
Catt said it would be “very hard” to drop Barritt before facing the twin threat of Brian O’Driscoll and Jonathan Sexton, who shone in Ireland’s victory in Wales.
“O’Driscoll is playing exceptionally well at the moment,” he added. “We know they are capable of doing that.”