Newcastle v Leicester: Manu Tuilagi return gives Tigers a huge boost, claims stand-in captain Ed Slater

Tuilagi has recovered from a pectoral muscle injury but is fit to return for the trip to the Falcons

“World-class” Manu Tuilagi has found fitness at the perfect time to bolster Leicester's Aviva Premiership play-offs charge, according to lock Ed Slater.

Samoa-born England centre Tuilagi has been out of action with a pectoral muscle problem since September.

The 22-year-old is fit to start Leicester's Premiership trip to Newcastle Falcons on Sunday, while England coach Stuart Lancaster will not rush him back for the final two rounds of RBS 6 Nations action.

Stand-in Tigers skipper Slater has backed Tuilagi to hit top form without delay, and boost Leicester's bid for a top-four finish.

"Manu is a huge part of the squad," Slater told the Leicester Mercury.

"He is a world-class player and with him back to fitness it will boost the rest of the squad at a key time."

Dan Bowden partners Tuilagi in Leicester's midfield, with top try-scorer Vereniki Goneva included on the wing.

Tigers rugby director Richard Cockerill expects Tuilagi to be fresh despite his lengthy lay-off, especially as his chest injury has not stopped him running.

"Manu has been unlucky with the injury and he's just had to be patient," said Cockerill.

But he has been training well, he's been able to do all his running and conditioning while the injury has healed and he's raring to go again."

Tigers full-back Mathew Tait will line up against younger brother and Newcastle counterpart Alex at Kingston Park on Sunday.

The Falcons have handed a debut to rugby league convert Lee Smith, who starts on the left wing, after his switch from Wakefield Trinity Wildcats.

The 27-year-old won three consecutive Super League Grand Finals and a World Club Challenge at Leeds Rhinos, scoring seven tries in eight games for England.

Head coach Peter Russell is confident the cross-code convert is ready for the rigours of the Premiership.

"He's played a bit of union before and you could tell that straight away in training, in terms of the rucks and those sorts of things," Russell told Press Association Sport.

"So that's stood him in good stead and he has settled very quickly.

"He's a real talent and we're all excited about seeing what he can do now.

"It's never an easy conversion, but his work ethic is fantastic and that will certainly mark him out.

"He's been the first in and the last off the training ground, just trying to pick up as many different tips as he can.

"But when we go through different things in analysis he catches on very quickly, knows exactly why we're doing certain things, and that's all been crucial to him getting to grips with the changes."

Newcastle have made six changes from the side that grabbed a losing bonus point against Northampton last weekend.

Mike Blair and Phil Godman link up as half-backs, with Adam Powell replacing the injured Jamie Helleur at centre.

Scott Lawson returns at hooker after helping Scotland edge past Italy 21-20 in Rome in Six Nations action last weekend.

PA

Sport
Luis Suarez and Lionel Messi during Barcelona training in August
footballPete Jenson co-ghost wrote Suarez’s autobiography and reveals how desperate he's been to return
News
newsMcKamey Manor says 'there is no escape until the tour is completed'
Voices
Hunted: A stag lies dead on Jura, where David Cameron holidays and has himself stalked deer
voicesThe Scotland I know is becoming a playground for the rich
News
people
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Architect Frank Gehry is regarded by many as the most important architect of the modern era
arts + entsGehry has declared that 98 per cent of modern architecture is "s**t"
Money
Welcome to tinsel town: retailers such as Selfridges will be Santa's little helpers this Christmas, working hard to persuade shoppers to stock up on gifts
news
Arts and Entertainment
Soul singer Sam Smith cleared up at the Mobo awards this week
newsSam Smith’s Mobo triumph is just the latest example of a trend
News
Laurence Easeman and Russell Brand
people
Sport
Fans of Dulwich Hamlet FC at their ground Champion Hill
footballFans are rejecting the £2,000 season tickets, officious stewarding, and airline-stadium sponsorship
News
Shami Chakrabarti
people
Arts and Entertainment
Benedict Cumberbatch has refused to deny his involvement in the upcoming new Star Wars film
filmBenedict Cumberbatch reignites Star Wars 7 rumours
Sport
football
News
news
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Wilko Johnson, now the bad news: musician splits with manager after police investigate assault claims

Wilko Johnson, now the bad news

Former Dr Feelgood splits with manager after police investigate assault claims
Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands ahead of the US midterm elections

Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands

The Senator for Colorado is for gay rights, for abortion rights – and in the Republicans’ sights as they threaten to take control of the Senate next month
New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

Evidence found of contact between Easter Islanders and South America
Cerys Matthews reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of Dylan Thomas

Cerys Matthews on Dylan Thomas

The singer reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of the famous Welsh poet
DIY is not fun and we've finally realised this as a nation

Homebase closures: 'DIY is not fun'

Homebase has announced the closure of one in four of its stores. Nick Harding, who never did know his awl from his elbow, is glad to see the back of DIY
The Battle of the Five Armies: Air New Zealand releases new Hobbit-inspired in-flight video

Air New Zealand's wizard in-flight video

The airline has released a new Hobbit-inspired clip dubbed "The most epic safety video ever made"
Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month - but can you stomach the sweetness?

Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month

The combination of cinnamon, clove, nutmeg (and no actual pumpkin), now flavours everything from lattes to cream cheese in the US
11 best sonic skincare brushes

11 best sonic skincare brushes

Forget the flannel - take skincare to the next level by using your favourite cleanser with a sonic facial brush
Paul Scholes column: I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Phil Jones and Marcos Rojo

Paul Scholes column

I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Jones and Rojo
Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

While other sports are stalked by corruption, we are an easy target for the critics
Jamie Roberts exclusive interview: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Jamie Roberts: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Wales centre says he’s not coming home but is looking to establish himself at Racing Métro
How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

A crime that reveals London's dark heart

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?
Meet 'Porridge' and 'Vampire': Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker

Lost in translation: Western monikers

Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker. Simon Usborne, who met a 'Porridge' and a 'Vampire' while in China, can see the problem
Handy hacks that make life easier: New book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone

Handy hacks that make life easier

New book reveals how to rid your email inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone with a loo-roll
KidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day

KidZania: It's a small world

The new 'educational entertainment experience' in London's Shepherd's Bush will allow children to try out the jobs that are usually undertaken by adults, including firefighter, doctor or factory worker