Tuilagi return causes selection dilemma
10:04pm Monday 4th February 2013 in © Press Association 2014
England coach Stuart Lancaster is ready to unleash Manu Tuilagi against Ireland on Sunday, but admits the Leicester wrecking ball's return to fitness has given him a selection dilemma.
Lancaster hinted that Tuilagi will be restored to the midfield after recovering from an ankle injury on account of his "unique set of skills and attributes", resulting in the demotion of either Billy Twelvetrees or Brad Barritt.
"I watched Manu through the course of last week, I could see he was back to running and changing direction," Lancaster said. "Genuinely, I'll wait and see how he trains tomorrow and on Wednesday before I make any decisions on the centre partnership."
It will be a difficult call to make, with Twelvetrees impressing on his Test debut when England began their RBS 6 Nations title quest with Saturday's 38-18 victory over Scotland, while Barritt offers defensive steel.
A final decision will be made by Wednesday after Tuilagi has featured in training, but Lancaster appears willing to hand his most destructive player an immediate recall even though he will have been out for a month.
Lancaster added: "The tipping point will be how he trains over the next couple of days as to where we go with him. He has missed a few games, but I'm confident we'll be able to use him after a full week's training.
"It would have been different if he had come back in and we were still undecided on Thursday. There are selection decisions across the field and this is one of them. Billy played well against Scotland and Brad's contribution as always was positive.
"But Manu brings a unique set of skills and attributes to the game and the team, as we saw in his performance against the All Blacks."
The second probable change for an encounter that is shaping up to be an early title decider following France's shock defeat by Italy will come in the back row, with Ben Morgan a doubt because of his ankle problem.
England ended the Calcutta Cup match with Tom Wood playing number eight and substitute James Haskell operating at blindside flanker. Billy Vunipola's ankle injury complicates matters, with Saracens' Will Fraser called up as cover.