Tuilagi back in England contention

Eddie Jones has named Sale centre Manu Tuilagi in his 25-man training squad as England (5/1 Six Nations outright) prepare to face Wales at Twickenham in the Six Nations.

After losing their opening game of the Six Nations campaign 20-17 against Scotland at Murrayfield, England bounced back to earn a 33-0 win over Italy in Rome.

Tuilagi missed both of those games due to a hamstring injury but he has featured for Gallagher Premiership side Sale and looks to be back to his destructive best.

The 30-year-old has helped Sale to earn back-to-back wins this month and, after flattening Harlequins’ powerful South African Andre Esterhuizen, it was inevitable that Jones would turn to him.

Tuilagi will link up with the England squad at their training camp in London ahead of their next Six Nations clash against Wales on February 26 (Match Betting – England 2/13, Draw 25/1, Wales 11/2).

Henry Slade has been playing at inside centre for the Red Rose in Tuilagi’s absence, partnering Elliot Daly against Scotland and lining up alongside Joe Marchant for the trip to Italy.

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It’s likely that Slade will move to 13 if Tuilagi is given the nod to take up a spot in the starting XV against Wales later in the month.

The Samoa-born back, who boasts 46 caps for England, has long been an integral figure in the midfield and his return to the fold will give Jones’ side some of the physicality they have been missing in the tournament to date.

Jones said: “Just having a power running centre would give us a different option.

“Everything we’re doing now is about trying to create opportunities through finesse and that’s through good running lines and passing.

“But to have someone who can take you forward quickly, and engage two or three defenders, it then allows you to try to finesse extra space, which would be really useful to us.”

Meanwhile, prop Joe Marler has been left out of the training squad and Courtney Lawes continues his return to play after concussion.

Number eight Sam Simmonds won’t train due to a hip issue and Wasps’ Alfie Barbeary has been called up in his place.

Barbeary is yet to win a cap for the national side but he could get his chance against Wales, while London Irish forward Tom Pearson is also included.

Saracens lock Nick Isiekwe started against Scotland and Italy but he is left out and fellow second row Jonny Hill is recovering from an injury to his calf bone.

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