Tuilagi named on England’s bench

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iol spt mar13 Tuilagi

London - Manu Tuilagi is set for his first England action in a year after being named among the replacements in an otherwise unchanged squad for Saturday's final Six Nations championship match against Italy in Rome.

Tuilagi, 22, has played only 70 minutes for Leicester since suffering a badly torn pectoral muscle in September but comes in for Alex Goode and will cover the centre and wing positions.

England, France and Ireland all have six points going into the final round of matches but Ireland's far superior points difference means that England would need a monumental win in Rome to overhaul them should the Irish win in Paris.

If France win that game (1700 GMT) then any England victory in Italy should be enough to secure only their second title since they won a grand slam in 2003.

“It's great to be able to name an unchanged XV and we have been able to achieve consistency of selection from a very competitive squad this campaign,” coach Stuart Lancaster said in a statement On Thursday.

“The Wales result was very significant for us but we need to finish the tournament well in Rome.

“We have had a tight turnaround and the key this week has been to manage the players' recovery and get them in the best shape for what will be a tough match against Italy.”

The one player who would not have needed any time in England's ice baths this week was Tuilagi, who is desperate to play some part in the championship.

Tuilagi had been a fixture in England's midfield since making his debut in 2011 and his powerful, aggressive attack has played an important role in some of their most significant victories, not least the 2012 thrashing of New Zealand at Twickenham when he was at his marauding best.

He suffered a terrible injury playing for Leicester when his pectoral muscle was badly torn and in his absence Luther Burrell, usually an inside centre, has come in and played well at 13, scoring three tries in his four appearances in this season's Six Nations.

With inside centre Billy Twelvetrees also growing in confidence with every match, Lancaster was never likely to break up the blossoming partnership, adding to Tuilagi's frustration after he missed much of the 2013 British and Irish Lions tour of Australia with a shoulder injury, featuring only in the final test as a replacement for 10 minutes.

Having Tuilagi on the bench in Rome gives Lancaster the option of bringing him on as a replacement winger, when England will hope to emulate Ireland's rush of second half tries against a tiring Italian side.

“It's brilliant to have him back,” captain Chris Robshaw said after the match squad was announced earlier in the week.

“As soon as he's come back in he's been very professional in making sure he's up to speed straight away. When you see him in training he's hungry, keen to get the ball in hand and he wants the ball early.

“He has the power but he also has an incredible amount of skill, which he probably doesn't get enough credit for. His handling and his skill is outstanding.”

Ireland have a plus 81 points difference, England are +32 with France +3. If France prevail, assuming they do not do so with a 40-point winning margin, England would take the title should they beat Italy by any score.

England, have won all 19 of their games against Italy home and away, though their last three matches in Rome have all been close, with winning margins of no more than five points. – Reuters


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