Manu Tuilagi has given England a pre-Six Nations boost by returning from injury for Leicester’s European Challenge Cup clash against Pau.

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The Tigers centre has missed three games due to a groin injury but he will captain Leicester in south-west France on Saturday.

Leicester have already won Pool Five and secured a quarter-final place, yet a top-four seeding is their quest at Stade du Hameau.

Fit-again Wales Six Nations squad member Jonah Holmes is on the bench, with Tigers’ replacements also including England prop Dan Cole.

“We’ve rotated the squad and shared opportunities for game-time throughout the Challenge Cup, and the guys have done very well so far,” Leicester head coach Geordan Murphy said.

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RugbyPass talk to England and Leicester centre Manu Tuilagi about all things Lions

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“This is a really good opportunity for us to gain experience in France and to try to build on the performances we’ve had in the last few weeks.”

If Pau win, it would leave them firmly in the last-eight mix as a potential best runner-up qualifier, and knock Cardiff Blues out of contention.

Welsh challengers the Blues and Scarlets have hopes of progressing, with both sides effectively needing bonus-point victories.

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The Blues host Italian minnows Calvisano and Scarlets visit London Irish on Saturday in pursuit of remaining runners-up qualification spots, with Blues also requiring a Leicester victory.

Four of the five groups have already produced winners and confirmed quarter-finalists in Leicester, Bristol, Toulon and Bordeaux-Begles.

Two from three in Pool One – Castres, Worcester and Dragons – are also set to progress, while Edinburgh will confirm a knockout place if, as expected, they beat Murrayfield visitors Agen on Saturday.

A five-point maximum for Scarlets at the Madejski Stadium should be enough, although added security would arrive courtesy of Leicester beating Pau.

Bristol should progress as top seeds if they beat Zebre in Italy. “The win is vital to us, and we’ve put ourselves in a position where all we need is a win,” Bristol rugby director Pat Lam told the club’s official website.

“We only have to look back at last year and what happened, where we were very disappointing and lost to Zebre over there. So, we’ve referenced that game this week. It’s a big motivation to ensure we get the job done.”

Elsewhere, already-eliminated Wasps host Bordeaux in Pool Three, while Toulon entertain Bayonne and Stade Francais visit Brive.

– Press Association 

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