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'I don't think we would do anything differently'

By Liam Heagney
(Photo by Dan Mullan/The RFU Collection via Getty Images)

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England assistant Richard Cockerill has suggested they would not do anything differently if they had their matchweek back over again with Manu Tuilagi, the powerhouse midfielder who was named to start against Wales only to get withdrawn a few hours later last Thursday due to a fresh hamstring strain. 

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Cockerill knows better than most in the English game how delicate a player Tuilagi can be as he was his Leicester coach for quite some time before moving on from Welford Road in 2017 to coach elsewhere.    

Tuilagi has also moved on from the Tigers, switching to Sale in summer 2020, and their boss Alex Sanderson spoke on Wednesday evening about their frustrations. He claimed: “We’re struggling to see how we can manage him potentially better.”

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The midfielder is due to start back training at the Sharks next week, meaning he won’t be an option for England for their March 12 match versus Ireland, but Sanderson hinted that Tuilagi might still come into consideration for the tournament-ending game away to France if there are no other setbacks with his recovery. 

England assistant Cockerill sat on fence regarding whether Tuilagi could return for that March 19 Stade de France finale. “Let’s see how he goes in the next couple of weeks and see how he rehabs back from this recent setback and then it is a decision to be made at a different time,” he said at Thursday’s lunchtime England media briefing.   

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“We have a very good S&C programme here and we liaise with the clubs. You have got to prepare guys to play Test match rugby and Manu was doing that (last week versus Wales), so I don’t think we would do anything differently. We obviously don’t want to injure players and moving forward, we have just got to make sure as and when he comes back into club and Test rugby that he is ready to go. 

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“Manu has got a long history of injury, especially around the hamstring, and it is something that clearly both club and country would like to get to the bottom of and solve so that he is on the field more often.”

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