Belfast Telegraph

Friday 29 August 2014

Tuilagi in frame for Test call

Manu Tuilagi, left, has staked his claim for a place in the Lions side to face Australia in the second Test

Manu Tuilagi might have thrust his sizeable frame into the British and Irish Lions Test team picture after starring in Tuesday's 35-0 victory over Melbourne Rebels.

The Leicester and England powerhouse made his presence felt through a number of trademark surges, while he also played a key part in creating an outstanding first-half try for wing Sean Maitland.

There were also strong performances from the likes of number eight Toby Faletau, flanker Sean O'Brien, plus both locks Richie Gray and Ian Evans as the Lions fought back impressively from last Tuesday's 14-12 loss to the Brumbies in Canberra.

Lions head coach Warren Gatland is due to name his team for the second Test on Thursday.

Brian O'Driscoll and Jonathan Davies forged an impressive centre combination against Australia in Brisbane last Saturday, but Gatland might decide that he simply cannot do without Tuilagi's revered game-breaking quality.

And his contribution was all the more impressive given that he had not played since suffering a shoulder injury two weeks ago.

"The shoulder felt really good," he said. "There are no issues. I was straight into it with the contact. I feel good. I just wanted the game to go on.

"It was an open game with plenty of rugby played, and it was an exciting game to play in. I've been doing a lot of fitness work the last two weeks, so I am glad to be playing again so I don't have to do any more fitness!"

Gatland has stressed throughout the tour about selection being an open book, and Tuilagi led a handful of players who could not have done much more.

"I think a lot of us felt it was the last chance for all the lads that didn't play last Saturday to hold their hands up and do their best for the coaches. We will see if we figure on Saturday," he added.

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