Planet Rugby

England consider Tuilagi recall

11th March 2014 15:10

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Manu Tuilagi England training session held at Twickenham

Waiting in the wings: Manu Tuilagi

England coach Stuart Lancaster is considering whether to bring back Manu Tuilagi among the replacements against Italy on Saturday.

England need to beat winless Italy in Rome, ideally by a huge margin to erode Ireland's massive points difference advantage before the Irish kick-off against France later in the day in the final match of the Six Nations Championship.

Any sort of Ireland win is likely to see them crowned champions in Paris but a narrow French victory would suit England's purposes - provided England beat Italy, a side they've yet to lose against in a Test.

Powerful centre Tuilagi could be just the ideal 'wrecking ball' to send on against a tiring Italian defence even though he has only recently come back from a chest muscle injury that sidelined him for six months. He has made only one club appearance for Leicester since his return.

Lancaster is reluctant to tamper with a starting XV that performed so impressively in beating defending Six Nations champions Wales 29-18 at Twickenham on Sunday.

But Lancaster said on Monday that Tuilagi, who would probably come in for utility back Alex Goode if selected, was a replacement option.

"If we were to go down the route of using him on the bench he'd certainly have a big impact," said Lancaster.

"We didn't feel that it was right to involve Manu against Wales because of his lack of training time with us. We'd be more comfortable bringing him in for this weekend.

"I haven't spoken to any of the players yet and there's someone who would lose their spot on the bench if that's the route we go down.

"One option is for him to cover wing and we have both Jack Nowell and Jonny May who can cover 15," added Lancaster, who is due to name his match-day 23 on Thursday.

One decision that won't be a worry for Lancaster, fitness permitting, is selecting Chris Robshaw as his captain.

Before the tournament there was talk of Lancaster passing the England captaincy to Robshaw's fellow back-row forward Tom Wood.

But now only injury, it seems, can prevent the Harlequins flanker leading the side at next year's World Cup in England.

"From a stats points of view he's the top tackler and top carrier again, which takes some doing," said Lancaster.

"The forwards deserve a pat on the back and Robshaw is at the forefront of that. He's become a well-rounded player.

"He's got a great balance to his game at the moment. He's got the strength to break the gainline and the skills to make the pass as well."

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