England have insisted that Manu Tuilagi was “managed appropriately” on his return to the national setup despite being ruled out of Saturday’s Six Nations clash against Wales with a hamstring injury.
Tuilagi sustained the new injury – a low grade hamstring tear – in training on Thursday just hours after he had been named to make his first Six Nations start in two years. In November Tuilagi suffered an injury to the same hamstring in the act of scoring the opening try in the thrilling autumn victory over South Africa.
The 30-year-old made his comeback off the bench for Sale against Harlequins in early February with an impressive 29-minute cameo, after which the Sharks director of rugby, Alex Sanderson, said he would prefer Tuilagi had a couple more games at the club to build up his match fitness. He played 52 minutes the following weekend – scoring a try against Worcester – before joining up with England at the start of last week.
“Both strength and conditioning and medical teams liaise closely about all players, all players are managed appropriately with what is required, that is no different for Manu’s situation than any other player,” said England’s forwards coach, Richard Cockerill. “[There’s] disappointment for him, he has worked very hard on his conditioning, he is in really good shape, the shape of his life. These little niggles are frustrating but he is a good man, he has matured and he has a good outlook on life.”
England are confident that Tuilagi will be back playing before the end of the Six Nations and believe they can keep their championship title bid on track without him against Wales. Eddie Jones was not due to confirm who will replace Tuilagi in the starting lineup until England arrive at Twickenham on Saturday with Henry Slade expected to move to inside-centre and Elliot Daly or Joe Marchant coming in to the No 13 jersey.
Cockerill added: “I am sure he will come back as good as ever. He works very hard at his game but that is the game sometimes, you get injuries, you work through them and he has worked through a fair few injuries in his career. I have no doubt he will come back and be fresh and playing well for club and country very soon.
“If we want to have any opportunity to win the championship we need to win all three games. That starts against Wales. It’s an important game for Wales and ourselves. We know we have to win and to win we will have to play very well. Wales clearly have a lot of very good players, they work very hard for each other and if you give them an opportunity they will take it.
“We are treating them with huge respect. We know they will bring their A game to Twickenham and we’ve got to do the same.”