Leicester Director of Rugby Richard Cockerill believes centre Manu Tuilagi is not yet ready to make his comeback for England.
Tuilagi, who was recalled to the national squad after being sidelined with injury for 15 months, scored one of Leicester’s four tries in their 31-27 Premiership win against Exeter at home on Sunday, but Cockerill believes the 24-year-old isn’t ready for Test rugby ahead of England’s Six Nations clash with Wales next weekend.
“I thought we were clinical, we took our opportunities. I’m disappointed we let them back into the game, their second try turning the game into a contest. But I’ve just reminded the boys that Exeter are a good side and have been going well, but we deserved to win,” Cockerill told reporters on Sunday.
“Manu did some good things today but I don’t think he is ready to play Test rugby.
“Even if you put him on the bench to be an impact player for the last half an hour, what happens if you have to put him on after five minutes?”
Cockerill said that he would talk to England head coach Eddie Jones, but added that the former Australia boss is in the position to make the call on the Samoan’s return.
“He (Jones) has all the power and if he wants to pick Manu he can pick Manu, whether that’s the right thing or not. He is probably five or six games away from being fully fit to play 80 minutes of Test rugby. I’d love to keep him and look after him so we can manage his training week. At the moment he is not doing a full week’s training because we need to save his load for game day,” Cockerill added.
“In a Test environment it’s more difficult. Manu has still not played a huge amount of rugby after 15 months out of the game.
“He wants to be back in the mix. Whether that’s right is for me and Eddie to have a discussion but, ultimately, it will be England’s decision.”