Edwards expects Tuilagi involvement
5:26pm Tuesday 4th March 2014 in © Press Association 2014
Wales assistant coach Shaun Edwards believes fit-again England centre Manu Tuilagi will be involved in next Sunday's RBS 6 Nations showdown at Twickenham.
The Leicester midfield powerhouse has not played for England since last March's calamitous record 30-3 defeat against Wales in Cardiff.
Tuilagi toured Australia with the British and Irish Lions last summer when England were in Argentina, then he suffered a pectoral muscle injury early this season that sidelined him for the autumn Test match appointments with Australia, Argentina and New Zealand.
He made his comeback in Leicester colours at Newcastle two days ago and was then called up to train with the England Six Nations squad at their Surrey base.
England head coach Stuart Lancaster said on Monday that Tuilagi and wing Marland Yarde, who is also back in the red rose camp following injury, would have to "go some" if they wanted to be involved next weekend.
Tuilagi has not trained with the England squad for almost a year, but Edwards thinks he will make the match-day 23.
Asked if he expected to see Tuilagi involved against Wales, Edwards said: "Yes.
"I don't know about starting, I don't pick the England team, but I definitely think he will be involved."
The winners at Twickenham will retain strong ambitions of landing Six Nations silverware this season, with Wales still harbouring hopes of achieving an unprecedented title hat-trick.
And the reigning champions are set to have their own centre of attention available for selection, with Tuilagi's fellow Lion Jonathan Davies destined to make his international comeback.
Davies has also been sidelined while he recovered from pectoral muscle damage, in his case suffered during Wales' opening autumn series loss to South Africa four months ago.
But after playing 65 minutes of the Scarlets' pulsating RaboDirect PRO12 victory over Munster three days ago, which followed a 40-minute run against LV= Cup opponents London Irish last month, he looks poised to return.
The 25-year-old is likely to partner Jamie Roberts in midfield, with George North moving back to the wing after wearing Wales' number 13 shirt in a 27-6 triumph against France last time out.
Lock Alun-Wyn Jones is set to be the other change, replacing impressive Scarlets newcomer Jake Ball after Jones missed out against France due to a foot infection.
"It was great see him (Davies) come through the game on Saturday," Edwards added.
"He has worked very hard with the conditioners during his time off, and I think that showed in the way he played on Saturday against a very strong opponent in Munster. He is looking forward to competing for a Wales shirt again.
"Ideally, he would have been playing week in, week out, but it is not always like that. Sometimes with special players you make special exceptions.
"It is nice to have that (midfield) combination (Davies and Roberts). If Jonathan gets the nod, it is good to have that kind of understanding. They have played together for a long time."
Rhys Webb, who was selected ahead of 82 times-capped Mike Phillips for the French clash, is expected to be retained for what would be only his second Wales start.
Webb injected greater pace and urgency into Wales' attacking game 11 days ago, although Phillips' impressive track record of performances, particularly against England, has meant some pundits urging Wales head coach Warren Gatland to recall him.
"I presume for Warren it is a dilemma, and it's a great position to have," Edwards said.
"You've got a number nine (Phillips) who has probably won an extreme amount of trophies over his career as an international player, and has just come off a winning Lions series.
"And you've got a young guy (Webb) who played exceptionally well on his first start (for Wales). It is a kind of headache that you want as chief selector."
Edwards, meanwhile, has highlighted the impact of half-backs Danny Care and Owen Farrell, together with brilliant young lock Joe Launchbury, on a Six Nations campaign that has so far seen England beat Ireland and Scotland after suffering an agonising late loss to France in Paris.
"We realise they (England) pose a vast array of threats, particularly the half-backs. I have great admiration for those two guys," he said.
"The player who probably doesn't get as many plaudits is Joe Launchbury.
"As a kid, I coached him at Wasps and I was looking at my notes from years ago. I think he had just made his (Wasps) debut at the time, and I said he was going to play for England.
"I just think he epitomises the England team. They are very hard-working, they are honest and they are up and coming young players who are obviously in the big time now. I think Joe Launchbury is an outstanding player."