England are almost certain to be without Manu Tuilagi for the duration of the Six Nations, with the powerful centre’s groin injury taking longer to heal than anticipated.
Tuilagi picked up the injury in Leicester’s second Premiership game of the season against Exeter in September before exacerbating it in the European Rugby Champions Cup win over Ulster a month later. But the initial prognosis was that one of England’s most potent threats would be back before Christmas.
However, Tuilagi remains on the sidelines and no deadline has been put on a possible return, although he admitted the end of next month would be an optimistic target, effectively ruling him of out proving his form and fitness to be part of Stuart Lancaster’s plans for the forthcoming tournament.
“I’m not sure,” said Tuilagi of his possible return date. “With this you have to just take it day by day and make sure it’s better before you try to come back. There are good days and bad days. Some days it feels brilliant and you wake up the next day and it doesn’t feel so good.
“That would be all right [to return] at the end of February. That’s ideal but, as I said, for me I have to get this right. It’s not like a sprained ankle you can strap it up and get on with it. I have to make sure that if I need to take another week or two I’ll take it.”
Tuilagi has undergone a medical treatment called prolotherapy for the past three weeks – a sugar injection in the groin to help the pubis bone stick together. To date, it has meant that he is now able to walk without pain although a full-time return to action is not quite looming. “It’s slow but it’s getting there,” he added. “It’s part of the game, you have to ride it out and come back.”
Tuilagi missed all four of England’s autumn internationals and, should he miss the entirety of the Six Nations, his chances of making England’s starting XV for the home World Cup later this year would diminish further.
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