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Cockerill: Cole needs time

Leicester boss Richard Cockerill ruled Dan Cole out of the remaining autumn internationals after the England prop made a successful comeback in the 29-13 LV= Cup win at home to Sale.

Cole, who has been out for nine months after neck surgery, played the last 32 minutes of Leicester's win at home, their second on the trot which kept them top of Pool Three.

But Cockerill thinks Cole will not be ready for any of England's three remaining internationals, against South Africa, Samoa and Australia.

He said: "I think it's too early for Dan to play, he has not played for nine months.

"He played just 30 minutes today so it's unrealistic to throw him in against the Springboks, or even Samoa and Australia.

"He needs to get back to full fitness, and we also have to look at the bigger picture, the next 10 years for us and for England the Six Nations and the World Cup.

"Coley will be so important to England if they are going to win the World Cup. He could potentially be the difference.

"So short term, the next three weeks, is irrelevant to Coley. The Six Nations is a realistic target and then it's the World Cup.

"He is one of England's major assets so I don't think you can risk Coley's fitness in the short term for his long term health and England's World Cup chances."

Cole, 27, also felt it was unrealistic to start thinking of England.

He said: "I'm just concentrating on Leicester. I have played 30 minutes of rugby after nine months out so I'm just happy to be on the field.

"Leicester have looked after me so if they want me to play I'll play for them."

Cole played his part in an astonishing comeback by the Tigers who trailed 13-3 at half time after being bullied for 40 minutes to score 26 unanswered points.

Wing Miles Benjamin led the way with two tries, the others coming from hooker Harry Thacker and centre Matt Smith. Lock Michael Paterson scored Sale's only try.

Two of Leicester's tries came while full-back Mike Haley was in the sin bin for tackling Tommy Bell in mid air, but by then the writing was on the wall for the Sharks.

Cole said the fightback was inspired by the 17,739 fans in the crowd.

He said: "To come from behind against an experienced Sale team was great to be a part of.

"The effect was the crowd who were getting frustrated in the first half, and they vocalised that in the second.

"They were noisy, got behind the team and the team responded. I don't know how many thousands were here but they inspired the boys and if it's as noisy next week for Saracens it will be a hard place to play."

Sale boss Steve Diamond said some of his players let the team down but also criticised referee Darren Gamage for giving Haley a yellow card. Leicester centre Matt Smith was also sent to the sin-bin.

He said: "It was very disappointing. Two or three lads let themselves down today and in the second half we were naive tactically. It was ridiculous.

"I did not see that coming. We talked about not being complacent and we were in control of the game.

"I don't want to bang on about it but there were some horrendous decisions by the referee after our dominant scrum first half.

"And the game is going soft if we are going to give yellow cards for a challenge in the air. Both players went up for the ball. The decision changed the game."

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