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Manu Tuilagi boost for injury hit England

By Chris Jones
(Photo by Visionhaus/Getty Images)

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Sale boss Alex Sanderson has given injury hit England a massive Six Nations boost by revealing wrecking ball Manu Tuilagi is set to be recalled for the clash with Italy in Rome on February 13.

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Tuilagi has made a rapid return from the grade three hamstring tear he suffered just six minutes into England’s Autumn series 27-26 win over South Africa as he scored a try. It was feared Tuilagi would miss the entire Six Nations – a fate that has now befallen captain Owen Farrell who has undergone surgery on an ankle injury.

This has left major question marks over England’s midfield selection and Sanderson said that while Tuilagi, who has a newly arrived baby boy, is not ready to play against former club Leicester on Sunday he will be ready to face defending Premiership champions Harlequins the day after England face Scotland on February 5.

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The Sale director of rugby is adamant that one game would be enough to allow Jones to call up Tuilagi to the squad to travel to Italy and said: “He is training and looking good but we think it is too much of a risk to push him this weekend.

“Harlequins is the projected return and then we will see how he feels for Six Nations. It is a week-to-week thing for Manu but England have total autonomy over when he plays and doesn’t play and if he looks really good and feels good, he will go straight through to England and it could be Italy.

“He is an exceptional trainer and a quick healer so all of his progressions are done on the back of hitting physiological markers and GPS speeds, rescans and seeing the specialist and we would never push him earlier. He is very diligent and is living a very wholesome life at the moment; doesn’t eat much meat, doesn’t got out and has just had a baby boy. All of these things are lending themselves to him pushing through the rehab quicker.

“The best players take the most care generally speaking and with some of them its because they are very demanding to get the best out of themselves and you need to meet with them and challenge them. Big players have big egos but Manu has none of those and he is the easiest man to manage but it is going to take time and focus and energy to manage the physical attributes he has. Manu helps manage other players because he is the spider’s web of interconnectivity with the friendships and trust he creates.

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“He has lost weight and we know now what he can function and maintain in terms of overall loadings per week. We know what is good for him and how far we can stretch that as the intensity goes up for international duty. It has to dovetail with the demands of the international game.”

Sanderson also believes Curry is ready if handed the England captaincy if Courtney Lawes is still troubled by concussion and said: “First he has the desire to take the lead and he has always been someone with the attributes to lead. He is really taken the bull by the horns and had the bit in his teeth when it comes to verbally driving the players – taking the lead in meetings and in those breaks in games on the field and he is good at it – better than me in terms of being concise.

“That’s part of it and we had a chat right after the Lions tour and up to this point has only been think about himself in preparation – what he needs to be in the right place and it was his awakening that he has to take into consideration other people and what they need in their prep to give their best performance for the team. That was the start; he talks more and is good at it and sees the need for it and has a great awareness of what the team needs in their preparation.”

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