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Sidelined England centre Manu Tuilagi tipped to realise 'world-class potential'

Luckless England centre Manu Tuilagi will miss the rest of the season with a knee ligament injury - but has still been tipped to realise his "world-class potential".

The injury-plagued Leicester battering ram suffered a ligament tear in Saturday's 16-12 Aviva Premiership defeat to Saracens, and will be sidelined for at least six months.

Tuilagi has battled severe groin trouble in the last two years and only managed one replacement appearance for England in 2016.

The injury blow to Tuilagi compounds Leicester's sacking of rugby director Richard Cockerill on Monday, with interim boss Aaron Mauger left to help the Samoa-born midfielder come to terms with his latest setback.

"Unfortunately Manu sustained an ACL injury in the game on Sunday that's going to put him out for the rest of the season," said Leicester coach Mauger.

"It's looking like a six-month recovery which is devastating for the bloke, he's worked so hard to get back to where he is.

"He's absolutely gutted, but we've got a good support team around him, we'll put a good plan in place and we'll see him back on the field early next season.

"Manu can absolutely still realise his world-class potential, despite this latest injury.

"He's started to show those signs in the last couple of weeks that's he's been in probably the best space that he's ever been in.

"We're really proud of the growth we've seen in him as a person.

"He was starting to get his explosive power and speed back and is really starting to understand the game better as well.

"He's starting to become a more complete footballer which is a great space for him to be in."

Tuilagi has suffered with continuous injury problems since missing the 2015 World Cup owing to both groin problems and his conviction for assaulting a police officer.

And just when the 24-year-old was looking to put himself back to full fitness and form, yet another injury blow has struck.

Long-serving rugby director Cockerill's departure from Welford Road came off the back of consecutive league losses to Exeter and Saracens, and just weeks after the record 38-0 European loss at Munster.

Leicester have dropped out of the Premiership's play-off places, and face Wasps at Coventry's Ricoh Arena on Sunday in their first match in six years without Cockerill at the helm.

Former All Blacks centre Mauger insisted he simply wants to "survive" the next fortnight, before considering his long-term future, even though he will be in serious consideration as a full-time replacement for Cockerill.

Tigers head coach Mauger confirmed he will remain in interim charge until the end of the season, handing Leicester breathing space to recruit their new rugby director.

Along with Mauger, the likes of former England coach Stuart Lancaster and ex-South Africa boss Heyneke Meyer will be firmly on the Leicester board's radar.

"We've had our ups and downs and events like these are pretty unsettling for the group," said Mauger of Cockerill's departure.

"We've dealt with it over the last couple of days and we've all got a big fight, a big job now, we're all responsible for the situation we're in.

"And now we've got a big job to prepare for Sunday and to get it right there and then for the rest of the season.

"If we keep looking after each other we've got a good group of people willing to make it work, and if we can do that and challenge and perform along the way we'll give ourselves a chance of achieving something at the end of the year.

"I think the club and the board are pretty keen to look at the options and assess the whole coaching structure over the next little while.

"That's probably their decision and I'll be informed of where they want to go with that.

"In terms of me, I just want to survive and get through the next few weeks to be fair, and enjoy the role.

"I'm lucky to have great support and some great people around me as I take on the role in the interim.

"We've got some really good staff a great playing group and some great leaders willing to make it work.

"So we'll get through the next couple of weeks and assess our options from there."

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