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England expect Manu Tuilagi to bounce back quickly from latest injury blow

Manu Tuilagi has suffered an injury setback and misses the Wales game (Mike Egerton/PA)
Manu Tuilagi has suffered an injury setback and misses the Wales game (Mike Egerton/PA)

England are confident that Manu Tuilagi’s latest injury setback is only minor after being forced to tear up their midfield plans for Saturday’s Guinness Six Nations clash with Wales.

Tuilagi on Thursday suffered a strain to the same hamstring that was torn against South Africa in the autumn, resulting in his withdrawal from the starting XV that had been named just hours earlier.

No sooner had Eddie Jones warned Wales that England’s “gainline accumulator” was back to his rampaging best, adding that “we’re planning for him to be at full tilt”, than he was on his way home.

The Sale centre has not been ruled out of the final two rounds against Ireland and France pending an update on the severity of the strain, but given his long injury history, his prospects of being involved in this Six Nations look bleak.

“Manu had a slight hamstring strain at training on Thursday, so he’s left camp and is at home,” forwards coach Richard Cockerill said.

“It’s not too serious as far as we know and hopefully he’ll be back soon. Manu is in pretty good spirits. Unfortunately this is part of professional sport.

“Manu’s still got a smile on his face and is optimistic that he’ll be back playing for club and country pretty soon.

Manu Tuilagi tore the same hamstring against South Africa in the autumn and only recently made his comeback from Sale
Manu Tuilagi tore the same hamstring against South Africa in the autumn and only recently made his comeback for Sale (Adam Davy/PA)

“On that front it’s pretty positive but obviously we’re disappointed for him personally, and it’s disappointing for the team as he’d have been an important part of the squad.”

Apart from the crushing sense of misfortune that Tuilagi must endure yet again, England are having to revise their strategy to take on the champions at Twickenham.

Tuilagi’s powerful ball carrying brings balance to a midfield that includes Marcus Smith and Henry Slade and his absence robs the team of their ability to be direct in attack.

England will announce their reshuffled back line on matchday with Slade likely to shift to inside centre, leaving Elliot Daly and the recalled Joe Marchant to compete for the 13 jersey.

“We’ve got options at outside centre. Joe has played there a fair bit and there are other options with Elliot Daly,” Cockerill said.

“That will be decided over the next 24 hours and it will be announced as we arrive at the stadium.”

England’s fierce rivalry with Wales has been given a new dimension as both teams know that after losing their opening matches, they must prevail on Saturday to remain relevant to the title race.

“If we want to have any opportunity to win the championship we need to win all three games. That starts against Wales,” Cockerill said.

“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.”

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