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Tuilagi blow for England

England could be without Manu Tuilagi for the entire RBS 6 Nations after the Leicester centre was ruled out until February with a chest injury.

It was hoped the torn pectoral muscle sustained on Aviva Premiership duty in September would heal without surgery and that he would return to action by next month.

But the 22-year-old has been forced to undergo an operation to have the damage repaired, placing his involvement in the Six Nations in jeopardy.

"Manu is probably out for three months," Leicester director of rugby Richard Cockerill said.

Even if Tuilagi's recovery progresses as expected, he will face a race against time to play any role in the Six Nations.

England's final two matches are against Wales on March 9 and Italy on March 15, offering their main strike runner little scope to regain match fitness before the championship ends.

"Manu Tuilagi has not been able to recover fully from the pec muscle injury with rehab and he had surgery yesterday to repair that," Cockerill said.

"He had a reaction right at the end of the rehab process so that was the right thing to do. He will be out for probably three months.

"That's disappointing because we hoped to have him back in the next few weeks. It's a blow for him and for us."

England have missed Tuilagi's explosive running and the midfield has struggled in his absence.

Billy Twelvetrees and Joel Tomkins have formed a new-look centre partnership for the QBE Internationals, which conclude against New Zealand on Saturday, that has yet to capture the imagination.

England's problems in midfield have been further compounded by the loss of Brad Barritt to a foot injury, although he is expected to return by Christmas.

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