Six Nations: England consider Tuilagi call-up for showdown in Italy
England are weighing up recalling Manu Tuilagi to the bench to boost their hopes of sealing the Six Nations crown.
Last Updated: 11/03/14 3:04pm
Tuilagi has recovered from the torn pectoral muscle that has sidelined him for six months but has only featured once for Leicester since his comeback.
After their impressive victory over Wales at the weekend, the English head to Rome on Saturday, hoping to overwhelm Italy and peg back Ireland's imposing points difference in case the title is decided on those grounds.
Head coach Stuart Lancaster is reluctant to change the starting XV, but centre Tuilagi is an explosive option if scoring tries is required.
"If we were to go down the route of using him on the bench he'd certainly have a big impact," said Lancaster, who would drop Alex Goode from the replacements if he opts for Tuilagi.
"We didn't feel that it was right to involve Manu against Wales because of his lack of training time with us. We'd be more comfortable bringing him in for this weekend.
"I haven't spoken to any of the players yet and there's someone who would lose their spot on the bench if that's the route we go down. One option is for him to cover wing and we have both Jack Nowell and Jonny May who can cover 15."
England are due to trim their squad to a matchday 23 on Tuesday night, at which point the final decision on Tuilagi will be known. The team will be announced on Thursday.
An Ireland victory against France in Paris should be enough to secure the title on the strength of their points difference of plus 49 unless Lancaster's troops can mastermind a landslide victory in Rome.
Chris Robshaw will lead the Stadio Olimpico points grab emboldened by a ringing endorsement from close friend Tom Wood - the player he edged for the England captaincy.
"Chris is an exceptional captain," Wood said. "First and foremost he's a really good guy so he's easy to follow. He's very humble and hard working. He sets his own standards. He works very hard off the field in terms of his analysis.
"And it's visible for everybody to see and it inspires everybody to strive in the same way. He's not a Churchillian speaker and he doesn't have to be because he just says what needs saying and says it in the plainest terms.
"He's happy to delegate. It's not all about him. He speaks when he needs to and he speaks at the right moments. And he delegates when appropriate.
"Ultimately he's getting through some of the best stats - in terms of ball carries, rucks, offloads, tackles - week in week out. He's always up there. He's easy to follow."
Robshaw received a similar endorsement from Lancaster, who has yet to install him as England's captain for the 2015 World Cup but will surely look only to the Harlequins openside to fill the post.
"From a stats points of view he's the top tackler and top carrier again, which takes some doing," Lancaster said.
"The forwards deserve a pat on the back and Robshaw is at the forefront of that. He's become a well-rounded player. He's got a great balance to his game at the moment. He's got the strength to break the gainline and the skills to make the pass as well."