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There's better to come from Manu Tuilagi, says Leicester boss Richard Cockerill

Published 16/01/2016

Richard Cockerill said of Manu Tuilagi, pictured:
Richard Cockerill said of Manu Tuilagi, pictured: "He is only 60-70 per cent sharpness-wise at the moment. He needs to get sharper and fitter."

Manu Tuilagi helped Leicester book a home European Champions Cup quarter-final with an easy bonus point win over Benetton Treviso - but the centre will miss England's first three Six Nations games, according to his boss Richard Cockerill.

The 24-year-old, making his first start for 15 months after a groin injury, played 52 minutes of a 47-7 home win which secured Leicester top spot in Pool Four with one game left, away to Stade Francais next Sunday.

But Cockerill, Leicester's director of rugby, said he had spoken to new England coach Eddie Jones and they had agreed Tuilagi would not be involved in the Six Nations until after the first three games.

He said: "He will stay with us and won't be going to England camp, and he won't play in the first three games. In that second fallow week we will have a discussion.

"If he is going well and playing well enough and his body can cope he may be involved with England for the last two games if selected.

"If he is not right he won't be going. We will make sure that this injury doesn't come back. You don't want him in a Test scenario if he is not right.

"He is only 60-70 per cent sharpness-wise at the moment. He played 50 minutes tonight and he needs to get sharper and fitter.

"There were some glimpses of the old Manu out there and as he gets fitter and sharper he will get better.

"Manu's best weight is about 110, 111 kilos, and he is a couple of kilos over that. It will take him six to eight games to get back to his best."

Tuilagi set up the first of Leicester's seven tries for Mike Fitzgerald, the others coming from Vereniki Goneva, Adam Thompstone, Ben Youngs, Laurence Pearce, Freddie Burns and a penalty try.

Cockerill said he would pick a strong side against Stade Francais to try to secure a place in the top two of the seedings.

He was delighted to have got a home quarter-final, adding: "If you get a home quarter I'm sure the stats says those guys win.

"It will be great to have a quarter-final here against whoever. It will be a big occasion and we will look forward to it."

Cockerill also revealed he had spoken to Jones about hooker Tom Youngs, who was controversially omitted from the England squad.

He would not reveal why Jones had left him out but said: "I think he will prove Eddie wrong and play some part in the Six Nations and take his chance."

Treviso, who are bottom of the Guinness PRO12 and without a win all season, scored one try through Andrea Pratichetti.

New head coach Marius Goosen said he was happy with the attitude of his players, adding: "I take a lot of heart from the performance.

"We always knew it was going to be hard but the result is not important at this stage. It's about getting some self-belief into the players and at times they showed that."

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