Sale Sharks director of rugby Alex Sanderson has indicated that Manu Tuilagi could be fit in time for the second round of the Six Nations.
Tuilagi hasn’t played since he injured himself while scoring a try for England against South Africa in November, but is nearing a return to playing.
The powerful centre hasn’t been included in England’s Six Nations squad, but he could play a role for his country sooner than many would have expected in the championship.
Sanderson was speaking to RugbyPass about Tuilagi’s current status and revealed that the England international is on track to face Harlequins on February 6th.
Alex Sanderson on Manu Tuilagi’s injury status.
“He is training and looking good but we think it is too much of a risk to push him this weekend. Harlequins is the projected return and then we will see how he feels for Six Nations,” Sanderson said.
“It is a week-to-week thing for Manu but England have total autonomy over when he plays and doesn’t play and if he looks really good and feels good, he will go straight through to England and it could be Italy.
“He is an exceptional trainer and a quick healer so all of his progressions are done on the back of hitting physiological markers and GPS speeds, rescans and seeing the specialist and we would never push him earlier.
“He is very diligent and is living a very wholesome life at the moment; doesn’t eat much meat, doesn’t go out and has just had a baby boy. All of these things are lending themselves to him pushing through the rehab quicker.”
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England are currently lacking options at centre.
The return of Tuilagi will act as a major boost to England head coach Eddie Jones, after captain Owen Farrell was ruled out for the entirety of the Six Nations.
Farrell’s and Tuilagi’s absence in the first round of the championship has left Jones with limited options at centre for England’s opening match against Scotland.
Henry Slade is expected to start at either 12 or 13, with either once-capped Mark Atkinson or late call-up Elliot Daly likely to start in the other centre position.
Luke Northmore is another option for England at centre, although the 24-year-old is yet to win a cap for his country, but could be plunged into the deep end in front of a raucous crowd at Murrayfield.