Manu Tuilagi is within the body to return for what England have billed as a “free swing” on the grand-slam chasing Eire on Saturday as Steve Borthwick’s wounded facet search to salvage their Six Nations marketing campaign.
With Ollie Lawrence dominated out with a hamstring harm, Borthwick is compelled into one other midfield reshuffle with Tuilagi – Eire’s tormentor-in-chief – accessible after suspension for the daunting journey to Dublin.
Tuilagi is but to function within the Six Nations this yr however might be tasked with including some much-needed energy to England’s ranks. The 31‑yr‑previous centre was missed by Borthwick for England’s matches towards Scotland and Italy earlier than a pink card on obligation for Sale dominated him out of the win towards Wales and the dismal defeat by France final weekend.
Lawrence’s harm, coupled with England’s limp response to France’s physicality, might pave the way in which for Tuilagi to return in Dublin, nevertheless, in a match wherein Marcus Smith has instructed there’s little to lose.
“There’s going to be quite a lot of noise and quite a lot of strain on us, and we’ve received to change into tighter versus splinter as a result of this can be a massive check of our togetherness as a squad, of our resolve,” Smith stated. “There’s no higher week than a free swing at Eire.”
Tuilagi’s final England look got here within the autumn and, although he was off form within the latter phases of Eddie Jones’s tenure, at his greatest he has wreaked havoc towards Eire and has a 100% win document in six earlier outings. He has missed the previous three conferences however was in devastating kind in England’s 57-15 win in a World Cup warm-up match in 2019 and earlier that yr was equally harmful as Jones’s facet clinched a dominant victory within the opening spherical of the Six Nations.
That day Tuilagi starred with Owen Farrell inside him at fly-half and Henry Slade his centre associate and Borthwick could also be tempted to rekindle that mixture following England’s capitulation to France. Smith was tasked with working a extra expansive gameplan however in horrible circumstances and within the face of French superiority he did not encourage any kind of attacking cohesion.
Borthwick might also be tempted to deploy Tuilagi at outside-centre with Farrell within the No 12 jersey and both Smith or George Ford, who was additionally included on Monday in a 36-man squad, at fly‑half. Joe Marchant and Man Porter are different centre choices however Tuilagi – who has been coaching with the squad regardless of his suspension – might present Borthwick with a solution to his energy downside.
By and huge Borthwick has caught by the gamers who have been trounced on Saturday with Lawrence the one member of the matchday 23 not included this week. Borthwick has additionally included the London Irish wing Ollie Hassell-Collins, the Harlequins tighthead prop Will Collier and the Sale lock Jonny Hill, who was briefly in camp final week after Courney Lawes suffered a shoulder harm.
Smith might be hoping he’s given one other shot at fly-half and believes England can deliver in regards to the crucial enhancements in such a brief house of time. “You need to check yourselves towards the most effective – and we’re going to the most effective on this planet – then we’re going to need to step up a gear,” he stated. “We’ve received to get higher shortly as a result of the problem doesn’t come a lot better than Eire away in Dublin.
“We’ve received to bounce again. There’s just one technique to go now, and it’s to face up and struggle as onerous as we will, play as onerous as we will for the shirt. Time is towards us, however I imagine we’ve nonetheless received time. With the characters we’ve received within the group we will flip issues round in a short time.”
Smith additionally believes England can take coronary heart from their efficiency towards Eire final yr. Eire gained 32-15 however the scores have been stage at 15-15 with quarter-hour to go regardless of Charlie Ewels’s second-minute pink card. “Dublin away goes to be a troublesome check, however we’ll take large confidence from what we did to them final yr,” he stated. “We have been very shut, with a person down, and we’re higher than we have been final yr.”