Six Nations 2014: England prop Joe Marler a doubt for Italy game with partner due to give birth
Stuart Lancaster keeps faith with the team that saw off Wales last weekend
Thursday 13 March 2014
England have named Manu Tuilagi on the bench for their final match of the 2014 RBS 6 Nations against Italy at the Stadio Olimpico.
Tuilagi will make his first appearance for England in a year after recovering from the torn pectoral muscle that kept him out for six months.
The British and Irish Lion has played just 70 minutes for his club Leicester since regaining fitness, but head coach Stuart Lancaster deems him ready for England's final assault on the title.
Tuilagi can cover centre and wing and has replaced Alex Goode on the bench in the only change to the 23 that defeated champions Wales 29-18 on Sunday.
"It's great to be able to name an unchanged XV and we have been able to achieve consistency of selection in a very competitive squad this campaign," Lancaster said.
With Goode removed from the bench, wings Jack Nowell and Jonny May are on standby to provide cover for Mike Brown at full-back if needed.
Tuilagi could have been fast-tracked into the matchday 23 that secured the Triple Crown against Wales at Twickenham, but Lancaster felt he needed another week in camp before being plunged into action.
England head to Rome with the primary objective of defeating Italy, but must also overhaul Ireland's imposing points superiority in case the Six Nations title is decided by that measure.
Manu Tuilagi has returned to the England squad after injury
France also remain in the hunt for Wales' crown - they host Brian O'Driscoll's men in Paris in the climax to the tournament - but with Ireland 49 ahead of England on points difference, they have established a near-unassailable lead.
Mindful of the explosive impact Tuilagi could have on a tiring Italian defence, Lancaster has called up the destructive 22-year-old to reinforce the final push for the first major piece of silverware of his two-year reign as head coach.
England, who have finished Six Nations runners-up for the last two seasons, need a deluge of tries at the Stadio Olimpico and it is hoped Tuilagi's power will be influential in the attempted points grab.
"The Wales result was very significant for us but we need to finish the tournament well in Rome," Lancaster said.
"We have had a tight turnaround and the key this week has been to manage the players' recovery and get them in the best shape for what will be a tough match against Italy."
Wasps prop Matt Mullan and Bath centre Kyle Eastmond will travel with the squad to Rome as 24th and 25th men.
Lancaster announced there could be a late change to the line-up as the partner of loosehead prop Joe Marler is due to give birth to their first child.
If Marler is unable to make it to Rome in time for the captain's run on Friday afternoon, Mako Vunipola will be promoted to the starting XV with Mullan taking his position on the bench.
"Joe's partner is in labour as we speak so we're waiting to see how that goes. We'll make a decision on Friday," Lancaster said.
"He's got to be at the captain's run. I spoke to Joe this morning and the good thing is we have a British and Irish Lion on the bench in Mako, who wants to start.
"Matt played in the autumn internationals and is a good player to come in on the bench."
Lancaster is pleased that Tuilagi is available to face Italy at the Stadio Olimpico.
"Manu has had that extra week's training he needed, so he's ready. He's a good player," he said.
England prevailed 19-15 in Rome two years ago and 18-11 in the return fixture at Twickenham last season - two narrow wins that have made Lancaster cautious over targeting anything other than victory.
"Winning is the priority. We went to Rome two years ago and it was very difficult," he said.
"Italy beat France in the Six Nations last year and Ireland struggled.
"Even Australia struggled in 2012. It's not an easy place to go and get points, and we know what's coming.
"This is a fantastic opportunity to finish the Six Nations on a high. We want to back up our recent good performances.
"The character we've shown throughout has been outstanding. The attitude has been the best I've known."
ENGLAND TEAM TO FACE ITALY
M Brown (Harlequins); J Nowell (Exeter), L Burrell (Northampton), B Twelvetrees (Gloucester), J May (Gloucester); O Farrell (Saracens), D Care (Harlequins); J Marler (Harlequins), D Hartley (Northampton), D Wilson (Bath), J Launchbury (Wasps), C Lawes (Northampton), T Wood (Northampton), C Robshaw (Harlequins, capt), B Morgan (Gloucester).
Replacements: T Youngs (Leicester), M Vunipola (Saracens), H Thomas (Sale), D Attwood (Bath), T Johnson (Exeter), L Dickson (Northampton), G Ford (Bath), M Tuilagi (Leicester).
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