England set to unleash Tuilagi?
Tue, 11 Mar 2014 07:58
He'd certainly have a big impact
England are considering whether to bring back Manu Tuilagi among their replacements as they plan one final attempt to take the 2014 Six Nations title this weekend.
England need to beat bottom of the table Italy - winless so far in the tournament - in Rome on Saturday, ideally by a huge margin to erode Ireland's massive points difference advantage before the Irish kick-off against France, the third side in title contention, later in the day in the final match of the Championship.
Any sort of Ireland win is likely to see them crowned champions in Paris but a narrow French victory could yet suit England's purposes, while a draw would take points difference out of the equation - provided England beat Italy, a side they've yet to lose against in a Test.
Powerful centre Tuilagi could be just the ideal 'wrecking ball' to send on against a tiring Italian defence even though he has only recently come back from a chest muscle injury that sidelined him for six months and made only one club appearance for English champion Leicester since his return.
England coach Stuart Lancaster is reluctant to tamper with a starting XV that performed so impressively in beating defending Six Nations champions Wales 29-18 at Twickenham on Sunday.
But Lancaster said Monday that Tuilagi, who would probably come in for utility back Alex Goode if selected, was a replacement option.
"If we were to go down the route of using him on the bench he'd certainly have a big impact," Lancaster said.
"We didn't feel that it was right to involve Manu against Wales because of his lack of training time with us. We'd be more comfortable bringing him in for this weekend.
"I haven't spoken to any of the players yet and there's someone who would lose their spot on the bench if that's the route we go down.
"One option is for him to cover wing and we have both Jack Nowell and Jonny May who can cover 15," added Lancaster, due to name his match-day 23 on Thursday.
One decision that won't be a worry for Lancaster, fitness permitting, is selecting Chris Robshaw as his captain.
There was talk of Lancaster passing the England captaincy to Robshaw's fellow loose forward Tom Wood.
But Lancaster remained loyal and now only injury, it seems, can prevent the Harlequins flank leading the side at next year's World Cup in England.
"From a stats points of view he's the top tackler and top carrier again, which takes some doing," Lancaster said.
"The forwards deserve a pat on the back and Robshaw is at the forefront of that. He's become a well-rounded player.
"He's got a great balance to his game at the moment. He's got the strength to break the gainline and the skills to make the pass as well."
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