Manu Tuilagi preparing to make his Leicester comeback
Manu Tuilagi will make his Leicester comeback on Friday in what is shaping up to be his penultimate club appearance before reinforcing England's push for the RBS 6 Nations title.
Tuilagi has recovered from the hamstring strain that has forced him to miss the Tigers' last three games and starts the Aviva Premiership clash with Harlequins at Twickenham Stoop knowing Eddie Jones will be watching from the stands.
Jones is hoping to involve him against Wales on March 12, although Leicester director of rugby Richard Cockerill has expressed misgivings over such a rapid return to international rugby.
Having recovered from a groin injury that sidelined him for 15 months, Tuilagi then damaged his hamstring three games into his comeback last month.
"Manu hasn't played enough rugby at club level, never mind Test level. If Eddie decides to pick him because he is playing well enough then so be it," Cockerill said.
If Tuilagi - who starts at inside centre - comes through unscathed against Quins and then London Irish nine days later, he is likely to be summoned into England's training camp ahead of the visit of Wales to Twickenham.
Also returning for Leicester on Friday night are club captain Ed Slater and flanker Brendon O'Connor, who have recovered from respective knee and hamstring injuries.
Former South Africa centre Jean de Villiers is set to make his Leicester debut off the bench after being included in the matchday 23 for the first time, finally overcoming a fractured jaw and calf problem.
Number eight Nick Easter returns for Quins - who will replace the Tigers in third place if they win - as one of five changes in personnel to the team thrashed 28-6 at Gloucester last week
Ben Botica starts at fly-half after Nick Evans underwent surgery on a broken leg this week that will keep him out until early May.