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Leicester chief Richard Cockerill plays down fears over Manu Tuilagi's fitness

Published 30/01/2016

Manu Tuilagi's hamstring problem is not serious, according to Leicester boss Richard Cockerill
Manu Tuilagi's hamstring problem is not serious, according to Leicester boss Richard Cockerill

Leicester boss Richard Cockerill says that England centre Manu Tuilagi's hamstring injury is "nothing serious" after his comeback from long-term groin trouble was stalled.

Tuilagi missed Tigers' dramatic 19-18 Aviva Premiership victory over Gloucester at Kingsholm, and he is unlikely to return until at least Leicester's league clash against Newcastle on February 12.

But Cockerill has not ruled out Tuilagi, who was three games into his comeback, being available for England at some stage during the RBS 6 Nations Championship campaign this season.

New England head coach Eddie Jones is keen to bring back the midfield powerhouse later in the tournament. Tuilagi has not played Test rugby since June 2014.

"He (Tuilagi) probably won't play next week, and he will probably come into it for Newcastle the week after," Cockerill said.

"If he is playing and back fit, then it is up to Eddie. Manu's groin is great, now it is keeping the rest of his body intact as well.

"If he was going to play in the last two (Six Nations games) and he is out for a couple of weeks, that may put him back, but I don't know. We will see.

"If he's fit. great, if he is not ready, then he is not ready.

"Fifteen months out of the game is a long time, and we are trying to manage that and integrate that as sensibly as possible. I think we've done that.

"His hamstring was a bit tight after the Stade Francais game last weekend, and he had it scanned on Monday and there was the tiniest of strains there. It is nothing serious."

On the field, Leicester full-back Tommy Bell kicked the Tigers to a dramatic victory as Gloucester folded after their England international number eight Ben Morgan was sin-binned.

Morgan saw yellow following an off-the-ball challenge on Leicester wing Telusa Veainu with just four minutes left, and Tigers made their one-man advantage count when substitute prop Logovi'i Mulipola crashed over for a try that Bell converted with barely a minute left.

Gloucester earlier saw international cast-offs Morgan and James Hook score tries as Leicester were nudged on to the back foot.

Fly-half Hook, who failed to make Wales' Six Nations squad, also added two penalties and a conversion, while overlooked England forward Morgan touched down midway through the first half.

Leicester, minus England squad members Ben Youngs and Dan Cole, in addition to suspended hooker Tom Youngs, saw prop Marcos Ayerza score a close-range try that their former Gloucester fly-half Freddie Burns converted in the first half, before Veainu finished off a brilliant long-range move 11 minutes from time that sparked Tigers' fightback.

Cockerill added: "I was pleased with our resilience to stay in the game. I am pleased we stayed in the arm-wrestle.

"Gloucester should have taken advantage of the opportunities they had, and they didn't, and it always comes back to bite you."

For his part, Gloucester rugby director David Humphreys refused to point the finger at Morgan after his team suffered an agonising late loss.

"It (yellow card) was a big decision," Humphreys said. "There was some contact, no question, but it certainly wasn't the reason we lost the game.

"If we look back at the game, it was very much in our control, but a couple of key errors at key points of the match meant we couldn't build the score.

"We got ourselves into a position to win the game. The first 15 minutes of the second-half, we had a lot of territory and possession, but didn't manage to take those opportunities.

"Against the top teams, you have got to take opportunities as they came along in the opposition 22, and that probably shows the difference between a team in the top half of the table and a team that has been in the bottom half over the last couple of years."

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