England centre Manu Tuilagi will link up with Stuart Lancaster’s squad today fresh from making a successful return to Leicester duty after five months out of action.
Tuilagi had a quiet day in the Tigers’ demolition of Premiership strugglers Newcastle and was sent to the sin-bin for a deliberate knock-on in the 70th minute. However, there was enough in his performance to suggest he could return to the England line-up against Wales on Sunday.
“I was excited to be back and wanted to play the whole 80 minutes,” said Tuilagi. “I felt pretty good out there after all the training I’ve been doing and I’ve worked hard to get myself back to this point. I was pretty nervous and excited at the same time just to get out there again. It took a while for me to get the ball but I was straight back into it as far as defence was concerned.
“I’ll be going down to training with the England boys tomorrow. The boys are doing really well and it’ll be really good for me to just get settled back in there.
“If Stuart asks me if I’m ready to play I’ll say ‘absolutely’. Of course, I would be nervous but I always like to be nervous before a game, it keeps me on my toes. I feel I’ve knocked the rust off my game today. I felt I could have played the whole game.”
Tuilagi may not have set the game alight but neither did he look like a player who has been out for so long, following a shoulder operation.
“It’s been a long road back,” he said. “It was a setback when they said it was really off the bone and needed an operation. They had to pull it back up and bolt it back and it took a while to heal. The five months have been really tough. I knew the injury was bad because I heard a little crack when it happened .”
Tuilagi was joined in being shown the yellow card by Ben Youngs and Toby Flood. “I’ll have to have a look at those yellow cards,” said Leicester director of rugby Richard Cockerill. “He was quick to get his cards out, but I’m happy with the result and happy to be where we are in a season where we have played rubbish, to be honest.”
Falcons’ Dean Richards was not enamoured with match official Greg Garner either. “We said at half-time we were getting absolutely nothing from the referee,” he said.
Newcastle: A Tait; Cato, Tiesi, Powell (Barnes, 41), Smith; Godman (J. Hodgson, 68), Blair (Fury, 65); Vickers (Strain, 51), Lawson (McGuigan, 63), Brookes (Tomaszczyk, 63), MacLeod, Mckenzie (Tomes, 73), Welch (York, 70), Saull, M Wilson. Leicester: Tait (Thompstone, 57); Scully, Tuilagi, Bowden, Goneva; O Williams, B Youngs (Mele, 65); Ayerza (Stankovic, 75), T Youngs, Mulipola (Balmain, 70), Deacon, Slater, Gibson (Waldrom, 55), Matera, Crane.
Referee: G Garner (RFU).