- Leicester Tiger not daunted by role on the wing
- Tuilagi admits watching from the sidelines has been tough
Manu Tuilagi is delighted to be part of an England match-day squad again and says he is ready to contribute from the bench against Italy in Rome on Saturday – wherever and whenever required.
The powerful Leicester Tiger has not been involved in a Test match for his country for a year, his last appearance coming in the 30-3 defeat to Wales at Cardiff’s Millennium Stadium to end the 2013 RBS 6 Nations.
But, having recovered from a pectoral problem that dogged him for six months after a wrong diagnosis, Tuilagi seemed extremely eager to pull on a white shirt for the 22nd time as England look to record a fourth consecutive win and stay in the hunt for a Championship victory.
“I’m really glad to be back involved with England and I’m excited,” explained the 22 year-old, who has replaced Alex Goode among Stuart Lancaster’s replacements. “It’s a massive game.
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“It’s hard for any injured player to watch their teammates, more so when the boys have been playing very well. You just want to be part of it. I’m very happy to be here now.
“Italy are a proud nation and they are at their home ground, so it’ll be a tough one.”
Tuilagi has only played a single game since his return, an Aviva Premiership run-out for Leicester against Newcastle Falcons at Kingston Park.
Though he picked up a late yellow card for a deliberate knock-on, the burly back impressed, contributing to a comprehensive 41-18 for Richard Cockerill’s East Midlands outfit with some trademark physicality in attack and defence.
Lancaster has hinted that Tuilagi may be deployed on the wing if the midfield partnership of Billy Twelvetrees and Luther Burrell maintain their form and, while refusing to look further beyond Saturday, the man himself said he would be confident of taking up a role in the wider channels.
“I’ve trained hard this week,” said Tuilagi, who spent his developmental years at Tigers in the back three. “Jack [Nowell], Jonny [May] and Browny [Mike Brown] have been helping me out with positioning, so I’m definitely ready to cover wherever I’m needed.”