Eddie Jones is adamant Manu Tuilagi can play a role in England’s Six Nations match with Wales on 12 March. Tuilagi made a successful comeback from a hamstring strain in Leicester’s defeat by Harlequins with Jones watching from the stands at Twickenham Stoop.
The explosive 24-year-old ended 15 months out with a groin problem last month before he was struck by his latest injury setback, casting his participation in the Six Nations in grave doubt.
Leicester’s director of rugby, Richard Cockerill, said England’s most effective ball carrier is not ready to end his 20-month absence from the Test arena, but Jones believes otherwise.
When asked if the showdown with Wales is feasible for his international return, Jones said: “Definitely. I’ll have to have that conversation with the head coach but that’s the plan. We’d like to look at that. I was pleased to watch him play.”
Jones views Tuilagi exclusively as an inside-centre and is unwilling to pick him at 13, the position he has filled for the majority of his career.
Owen Farrell has been selected in the No12 jersey for the victories over Scotland and Italy that have launched the post-Stuart Lancaster era but once Tuilagi is deemed ready he will start.
“I think inside-centre is his best position. He’s not a 13. That’s what I know he’s not. He’s definitely a 12. He can carry the ball across the gain line,” Jones said. “He threw a beautiful left to right pass on Friday night. And then he threw a terrible right to left, so maybe he’s left handed!
“But he’s got the ability to catch and pass. I haven’t seen him kick but there’s no reason he can’t learn to kick. We have a reasonable kicking mentor here [in Jonny Wilkinson]. He’s got all the attributes to be an outstanding 12.”
“We’ve got Sam Hill and we have experimented with Elliot Daly at 12. He obviously gives us good cover in that he could potentially play 12, 13 and 15 and left wing.”
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