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Leicester Tigers centre Manu Tuilagi fit for Saracens semi-final showdown

Published 17/05/2016

Leicester Tigers' Manu Tuilagi is fit again
Leicester Tigers' Manu Tuilagi is fit again

Manu Tuilagi has given Leicester Tigers a huge fitness boost ahead of their Aviva Premiership semi-final against Saracens.

The England centre will return from the knee injury he suffered during the European Champions Cup semi-final defeat by Racing 92 last month while Brendon O'Connor and Mike Fitzgerald will also be fit for the clash at Allianz Park.

The trio will be part of a strong Tigers squad that travels to north London on Saturday, when Richard Cockerill's team will be aiming to end a dismal recent record at the home of the newly-crowned European champions which has seen them lose all three previous visits.

It has given Cockerill a welcome selection headache ahead of Saturday's game.

He said: " Manu, Mike and Brendon are all good and available for selection.

"Opeti Fonua should be fine. He has had a problem with his calf but he trained this (Tuesday) morning and Matt Smith should be okay too. We have some selection issues because we have a good bill of health and people have put their hands up.

"Harry Thacker, Greg Bateman and Leo Ghiraldini are all fit at hooker. There are some tough selection choices and there are going to be some guys who are disappointed at not being involved.

"That is the nature of being involved at this time of year. It's nice to have a relatively full squad, that's for sure."

With a place in the top four already assured, for the 12th successive year, Cockerill rested Telusa Veainu, Niki Goneva, Marcos Ayerza, Dan Cole, Lachlan McCaffrey, Opeti Fonua and Graham Kitchener last weekend as his side lost 38-27 to Bath.

Looking at the bigger picture, though, Cockerill said: "We had to make sure we rested guys and looked after guys for the semi.

''We had to look after our squad and be sensible. We need to make sure we get it right for the semi and try to give ourselves the best chance possible to win the competition.

"We will have to do it all to get the better of them (Saracens). I can't remember ever having a pleasant day down there and even seeing a good performance. But this is the season for us, whereas they have already had a successful season with success in Europe.

"Both sides have a huge amount of respect for each other. If we are on our game and play how we want to play, we have no doubt that we can win."

Leicester have not won at Saracens in three attempts and lost both Premiership fixtures against the Londoners this season, including a 26-6 defeat at Allianz Park in January.

While Cockerill has many players fit again after injury, scrum-half Sam Harrison is out for the rest of the season after fracturing bones in his face and breaking his nose in Leicester's 31-17 win over Worcester on April 30.

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