Eddie Jones hoping to unleash power of Tuilagi and Lawes in Welsh clash

England coach to assess if Tuilagi is fit enough to step up after appearing for Sale

Eddie Jones hopes to unleash Manu Tuilagi and Courtney Lawes against Wales when England's Six Nations campaign resumes on Saturday week with the head coach optimistic of welcoming back a number of senior players from injury.

Tuilagi continued his comeback on Saturday for Sale and was among their try-scorers against Worcester on his first start since a hamstring injury. Jones was due to speak to the 30-year-old centre as well as the Sale director of rugby, Alex Sanderson, today before finalising a training squad for the first fallow week of the competition but he acknowledged Tuilagi would be a significant addition as his side seek to make up for last year’s 40-24 defeat in Cardiff.

Lawes has been sidelined with a head injury suffered in mid-January as he progresses through the return-to-play protocols. He has been restricted to running and weight training but Jones is hopeful he will be back in full contact training by the end of the week. Lawes led England with distinction against Tonga and South Africa in the autumn in the absence of Owen Farrell and, though Tom Curry fulfilled the role against Scotland and Italy, the expectation is that the Northampton forward would resume the captaincy.

Joe Launchbury, who was briefly called into camp last week after two matches for Wasps following a lengthy lay-off with a knee injury, is set to come into contention to face Wales, along with Lewis Ludlam, who started against Scotland but suffered a rib injury which ruled him out of Sunday’s 33-0 win over Italy.

Asked which players Jones hoped to have available again, Jones said: “Potentially Launchbury, Tuilagi, Lawes, Ludlam, I’ll have a chat to Alex and Manu and see where they’re at and whether he’s got enough petrol in the tank to make the step up. We’ll assess it from there. Just having a power-running centre would give us a different option.

“Everything we’re doing now is about trying to create opportunities through finesse and that’s through good running lines and passing. But to have someone who can take you forward quickly and engage two or three defenders then allows you to try and finesse in extra space.

“We’d be hopeful that by the end of [the ]week [Courtney] will be training fully. He’s making some great progress and the medical staff have done some terrific work with him. He’s not far away now and we’re really hopeful he’ll be back in full training and able to play against Wales.”

Last year against Wales England felt wronged after a controversial Josh Adams try came from a quickly taken penalty by Dan Biggar and a Liam Williams score that featured a questionable knock-on decision. Jones said: “I don’t even remember that game. To me, that game was a Rassie Erasmus video game because we got two difficult decisions against us early that were apologised for by World Rugby for being incorrect, but that doesn’t get you a result back. I don’t think there is anything to learn from bad refereeing.”

Wales got their campaign back on track with a hard-fought win over Scotland, having been resoundingly beaten by Ireland. “They were outstanding [against Scotland]. They hung in the game,” said Jones. “It was a game they shouldn’t have won. It was a great attritional performance. They’re Six Nations champions, aren’t they? They’re not going to throw away their mantle easily. Biggar at 10 is obviously enjoying the captaincy. He’s got a bit of theatre about him, which is good for the game.” – Guardian

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