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

News
exclusivePunk icon Viv Albertine on Sid Vicious, complacent white men, and why free love led to rape
News
i100
News
people
Sport
Colombia's James Rodriguez celebrates one of his goals during the FIFA World Cup 2014 round of 16 match between Colombia and Uruguay at the Estadio do Maracana in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
sportColombian World Cup star completes £63m move to Spain
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Sport
Antoine Griezmann has started two of France’s four games so far
sport
Life and Style
techYahoo Japan launches service to delete your files and email your relatives when you die
Life and Style
Child's play: letting young people roam outdoors directly contradicts the current climate
lifeHow much independence should children have?
Arts and Entertainment
Tycoons' text: Warren Buffett and Bill Gates both cite John Brookes' 'Business Adventures' as their favourite book
booksFind out why America's richest men are reading John Brookes
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
<p><strong>2008</strong></p>
<p>Troubled actor Robert Downey Jr cements his comeback from drug problems by bagging the lead role in Iron Man. Two further films follow</p>
filmRobert Downey Jr named Hollywood's highest paid actor for second year running
Life and Style
Dale Bolinger arranged to meet the girl via a fetish website
life
Property
Sign here, please: Magna Carta Island
propertyYours for a cool £4m
Caption competition
Caption competition
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

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

Career Services

Day In a Page

Some are reformed drug addicts. Some are single mums. All are on benefits. But now these so-called 'scroungers’ are fighting back

The 'scroungers’ fight back

The welfare claimants battling to alter stereotypes
Amazing video shows Nasa 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action

Fireballs in space

Amazing video shows Nasa's 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action
A Bible for billionaires

A Bible for billionaires

Find out why America's richest men are reading John Brookes
Paranoid parenting is on the rise - and our children are suffering because of it

Paranoid parenting is on the rise

And our children are suffering because of it
For sale: Island where the Magna Carta was sealed

Magna Carta Island goes on sale

Yours for a cool £4m
Phone hacking scandal special report: The slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

The hacker's tale: the slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

Glenn Mulcaire was jailed for six months for intercepting phone messages. James Hanning tells his story in a new book. This is an extract
We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

Child abusers are not all the same, yet the idea of treating them differently in relation to the severity of their crimes has somehow become controversial
The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

For instance, did Isis kill the Israeli teenagers to trigger a war, asks Patrick Cockburn
Alistair Carmichael: 'The UK as a whole is greater than the sum of its parts'

Alistair Carmichael: 'The UK as a whole is greater than the sum of its parts'

Meet the man who doesn't want to go down in history as the country's last Scottish Secretary
Legoland Windsor's master model-makers reveal the tricks of their trade (including how to stop the kids wrecking your Eiffel Tower)

Meet the people who play with Lego for a living

They are the master builders: Lego's crack team of model-makers, who have just glued down the last of 650,000 bricks as they recreate Paris in Windsor. Susie Mesure goes behind the scenes
The 20 best days out for the summer holidays: From Spitfires to summer ferry sailings

20 best days out for the summer holidays

From summer ferry sailings in Tyne and Wear and adventure days at Bear Grylls Survival Academy to Spitfires at the Imperial War Museum Duxford and bog-snorkelling at the World Alternative Games...
Open-air theatres: If all the world is a stage, then everyone gets in on the act

All the wood’s a stage

Open-air productions are the cue for better box-office receipts, new audiences, more interesting artistic challenges – and a picnic
Rand Paul is a Republican with an eye on the world

Rupert Cornwell: A Republican with an eye on the world

Rand Paul is laying out his presidential stall by taking on his party's disastrous record on foreign policy
Self-preservation society: Pickles are moving from the side of your plate to become the star dish

Self-preservation society

Pickles are moving from the side of your plate to become the star dish
Generation gap opens a career sinkhole

Britons live ever longer, but still society persists in glorifying youth

We are living longer but considered 'past it' younger, the reshuffle suggests. There may be trouble ahead, says DJ Taylor