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England coach Eddie Jones expects Manu Tuilagi to have Six Nations role

By Duncan Bech

Published 14/01/2016

New boys: England head coach Eddie Jones (centre) with coaches Steve Borthwick (left) and Paul Gustard (right) at Twickenham Stadium
New boys: England head coach Eddie Jones (centre) with coaches Steve Borthwick (left) and Paul Gustard (right) at Twickenham Stadium

England head coach Eddie Jones is likely to have Manu Tuilagi available for the final two matches of the RBS Six Nations, but has not given up hope of him returning sooner.

Tuilagi has been included in Jones' first squad with Ollie Devoto of Bath present as an injury replacement until the British and Irish Lion proves his fitness after 15 months out with a groin problem.

The 24-year-old made his comeback for Leicester against Northampton last Saturday and will continue to play for his club with a view to appearing against Wales and France with Jones viewing him as a possible solution to the perennial problem position of inside centre.

"I've chatted to (director of rugby) Richard Cockerill and at this stage it looks like he will be ready for the Wales game," Jones said.

"Hopefully we'll get him for the last two games of the Six Nations, but he might come through very quickly."

Jones has performed radical surgery in naming his first England squad, omitting nine players who were present at last autumn's World Cup while recalling Tuilagi, Dylan Hartley and Chris Ashton.

Tom Youngs is the biggest casualty and Tom Wood, Geoff Parling, Rob Webber, Brad Barritt, Nick Easter, David Wilson, Ben Morgan and Richard Wigglesworth are also missing, taking them with a combined total of 297 caps.

In total there are seven uncapped players among the 33 in Sam Hill, Josh Beaumont - son of Rugby Football Union chairman Bill - Jack Clifford, Elliot Daly, Ollie Devoto, Paul Hill and Maro Itoje.

"There's a lot of disappointed players. I've spoken to each -whether they remember the conversation I'm not sure," Jones said.

"They know what they have got to do to get into the squad and there have been close calls."

One player who has survived is Chris Robshaw, England's incumbent captain who is likely to see that role passed to Hartley but is favourite to start at blindside flanker having served for the past four years in the No.7 jersey.

Robshaw has been outstanding for Harlequins since returning from the World Cup and Jones insists he was ill-suited to openside.

"We are not going to have any six-and-a-halves. We want a six and a seven. Chris Robshaw has been doing exceedingly well at six - maybe because he's got half a number off his back!" Jones said.

"He's been playing brilliantly and will push very hard to get into the team at six."

Hartley (pictured) is favourite for the captaincy but having endured a spell on the sidelines with concussion and a rib problem, he now finds himself second choice hooker at Northampton.

Jones refuses to be drawn on who will lead England against Scotland at Murrayfield on February 6.

"We've got 33 players. That goes down to 23 players and then down to 15 players. When we've got 15 players, then we'll worry about the captain," he said.

ENGLAND SQUAD Backs: Mike Brown (Harlequins), Alex Goode (Saracens), Chris Ashton (Saracens), Jack Nowell (Exeter), Anthony Watson (Bath), Marland Yarde (Harlequins), Elliot Daly (Wasps), Ollie Devoto (Bath) (injury replacement for Manu Tuilagi, Leicester), Jonathan Joseph (Bath), Sam Hill (Exeter) (injury replacement for Henry Slade, Exeter) Owen Farrell (Saracens), George Ford (Bath), Danny Care (Harlequins), Ben Youngs (Leicester).

Forwards: Dan Cole (Leicester), Paul Hill (Northampton), Matt Mullan (Wasps), Joe Marler (Harlequins), Henry Thomas (Bath) (injury replacement for Kieran Brookes, Northampton), Mako Vunipola (Saracens), Luke Cowan Dickie (Exeter), Jamie George (Saracens), Dylan Hartley, Maro Itoje (Saracens), George Kruis (Saracens), Joe Launchbury (Wasps), Courtney Lawes (Northampton), Josh Beaumont (Sale), Jack Clifford (Harlequins), James Haskell (Wasps), Chris Robshaw (Harlequins), Matt Kvesic (Gloucester) (injury replacement for Dave Ewers, Exeter), Billy Vunipola (Saracens).

Belfast Telegraph

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