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Manu Tuilagi on brink of Leicester return

Published 20/11/2016

Manu Tuilagi is close to a return from injury
Manu Tuilagi is close to a return from injury

Manu Tuilagi is set to make his long-awaited comeback for Leicester Tigers in the next "couple of weeks", according to director of rugby Richard Cockerill.

The 25-year-old England centre, who has been dogged by injury for two years and has not played since the first game of the season because of a groin injury, warmed up with his team mates ahead of Leicester's comfortable 25-6 Aviva Premiership home win against Harlequins.

Cockerill said: "We are hoping within the next couple of weeks he will be in the 23. It would be nice would not it?

"You saw him before the game, he looks sharp. I am just waiting for the medics to say he is good to go."

That means Tuilagi could return for the Premiership game at Bristol on Friday or the derby at home to Northampton on December 3.

Either way it would be a major boost to the Tigers who destroyed Harlequins in the second half, rattling up 16 points without reply thanks to a dominant performance by the forwards in front of Leicester's biggest crowd of the season, 25,849.

Leicester led 9-6 at half-time but a try by centre Owen Williams in the 54th minute and a further 11 points from the boot of fly-half Freddie Burns, taking his tally to 20, earned Leicester a win which moved them above Exeter into fourth place on 23 points.

Cockerill said he called for more urgency at half-time.

"We were playing within ourselves and we needed to up the ante a bit," he said.

"The first half was a bit flat. We did not execute our set piece well. There were two of three opportunities from scrums and line outs when we did not deliver the ball.

"In the second half we took the game to them and controlled Quins well and they did not look like posing a threat.

"The forwards were better. We carried the ball better. There was more urgency and if we can get that every week we will be in the mix because we have some good players."

Cockerill praised Burns, who had a 100 per cent kicking record, slotting five penalties, a drop goal and a conversion.

"He was good all round," said Cockerill.

"He is working hard with Geordan (Murphy) and Aaron (Mauger) about understanding when to run and when to kick and is improving all the time."

The match pitched Cockerill against his former front row team-mate, Graham Rowntree, who is now Quins' forwards coach after eight years with England.

"He has been on the dark side for a while now. He went from here to the Union and now Quins," he said.

"I have known him for 25 years and he's a good friend and a good coach. We will have a beer, I may have got the bragging rights this week but there's a long way to go."

Cockerill expects to be without Tom Croft (head injury) and Marcos Ayerza (hamstring) for Friday's trip to Bristol but Burns (face) and Mat Tait (jaw) may be fit.

Harlequins director of rugby John Kingston was left frustrated, saying: " It was disappointing. We lost our composure and discipline. They scored only one try but we gave away too many penalties and you can't do that in this environment.

"We have to dust ourselves down because we have a couple of big games coming up. We will prepare right for Bath. We have a good home record this season and we have to take that into Sunday."

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