Tuilagi available for Ireland encounter

Mon, Feb 4, 2013, 00:00

Rugby:England centre Manu Tuilagi is available for Sunday’s Six Nations clash with Ireland at Aviva Stadium after completing his recovery from an ankle injury.

Tuilagi missed Saturday’s 38-18 victory over Scotland but coach Stuart Lancaster confirmed he will train fully this week, while number eight Ben Morgan is struggling to recover from his ankle problem for the trip to Dublin.

“The last message we had about Manu was that he’s fit and available to train. He’s coming in this afternoon. He’s available for Sunday,” Lancaster said.

“Ben is still in a boot. The last prognosis is that he will struggle to be available for the weekend, but I’ll know definitely tomorrow.”

Lancaster admitted that Tuilagi’s availability has left him with a selection dilemma in midfield following Billy Twelvetrees’s successful Test debut against the Scots, but hinted that the Leicester wrecking ball will start.

Brad Barritt was shifted to outside centre for the Calcutta Cup match to accommodate Twelvetrees, but despite a solid performance could fail to make the 23 for Dublin.

“There are selection decisions across the field and that’s one of them. Billy played well and Brad’s contribution as always was positive,” Lancaster said. “But Manu brings a unique set of skills and attributes to the game and the team, as we saw in his performance against the All Blacks.

“Genuinely, I’ll wait and see how he trains tomorrow and on Wednesday before I make any decisions on the centre partnership.

“The reason I prefer to announce the team later in the week is that it allows me to look at the players in training and see who’s up to speed and who isn’t.”

Saracens flanker Will Fraser has been called up as injury cover for Morgan while Wasps number eight Billy Vunipola was undergoing a fitness test on his ankle injury at Twickenham this afternoon.

England’s showdown with Ireland has taken on greater significance following their emphatic opening-day victories over Scotland and Wales respectively.

Adding to the sense it could be an early Six Nations title decider is the damage done to France’s championship aspirations by their shock 23-18 defeat by Italy in Rome yesterday.

“Italy confirmed what I thought about the strength of Italian rugby. They’ve significantly improved. Last year we found out how difficult it is to beat them in the Stadio Olimpico,” Lancaster said.

“Their performance merited the victory so credit to them and it throws the championship wide open in a number of ways.

“France will be looking for a response at the weekend. The quality of Italy’s performance was the best I’ve seen. They’re maturing as a team.”

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