England insist Manu Tuilagi is no risk for Calcutta Cup

Manu Tuilagi playing for England at last year's Rugby World Cup
Manu Tuilagi suffered a groin injury in December - Getty Images/Paul Harding

England are confident that bringing Manu Tuilagi back to face Scotland would not be a risk, after the centre was named in the squad following a groin injury which has kept him out since before Christmas.

Tuilagi is listed as a full participant unlike Ollie Lawrence and Marcus Smith, who have linked up with the squad to continue rehabilitating their respective hip and calf injuries. England forwards Luke Cowan-Dickie and George Martin have also been named in the squad for the first time in this year’s Six Nations, as reported on Tuesday by Telegraph Sport.

Regarding Tuilagi’s potential return, England defence coach Felix Jones said: “Manu’s probably a guy who has experienced enough Test rugby. To my knowledge he’s done it a number of times when he’s come back from injury with low levels of game time and low levels of Test game time, but still been able to perform at a very high level.”

Three names dropping out from the 36-player group are Newcastle hooker Jamie Blamire, Northampton back-row Tom Pearson and Harlequins back Oscar Beard.

Given Lawrence’s current status, Tuilagi and Fraser Dingwall would appear to be the frontrunners to start at inside centre for England next weekend. Tuilagi has now recovered from a groin issue which has kept him out since Dec 22, while Dingwall has started in England’s two wins over Italy and Wales, scoring last Saturday at Twickenham.

Ollie Lawrence of England and Marcus Smith of England applaud the fans after their sides defeat during the Rugby World Cup France 2023 match between England and South Africa at Stade de France on October 21, 2023 in Paris, France
Marcus Smith (right) and Ollie Lawrence are edging back to fitness after injury problem - Getty Images

With Smith still working his way back from the calf injury he suffered during England’s pre-tournament training camp in Portugal, with England previously suggesting that he would not feature until the back end of the Championship, George Ford and Fin Smith remain the most likely options at fly-half.

Martin’s return will come as a boost for head coach Steve Borthwick, with the talented young forward not having played for England since his impressive performance in the World Cup semi-final defeat to South Africa. Martin had previously been sidelined by a minor knee injury he picked up in the middle of January.

Having Martin available creates an interesting selection decision for Borthwick, having previously paired Martin with Maro Itoje while using Courtney Lawes as a blindside flanker during the Rugby World Cup. Lawes has since retired, meaning England could elect to reunite Leicester team-mates Ollie Chessum and Martin together in the second row and move Itoje to six, or decide that Martin should operate as the blindside flanker while keeping Itoje and Chessum together.

Either scenario would come at the expense of Ethan Roots, the Exeter forward who was player of the match against Italy on his Test debut.

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