Manu Tuilagi waits to learn severity of hamstring injury ahead of England tour
Manu Tuilagi's fate will be decided in the next 48 hours when the severity of the hamstring injury that threatens to rule him out of England's tour to Australia is confirmed.
Tuilagi has been included among the 32 players picked for the three-Test series against the Wallabies despite suffering what was initially thought to be a grade-two tear requiring six weeks of rehabilitation.
The 25-year-old, who returned from a long-term groin problem in January and has been troubled by knee and hamstring complaints since, lasted only 20 minutes of Leicester's Aviva Premiership semi-final rout by Saracens and a definitive decision on his fitness is expected by Tuesday.
"It's very much in the balance whether he goes on tour or not. At the moment we don't know if he'll be on the tour," England head coach Eddie Jones said.
"He'll be examined by the Leicester staff more intensely on Monday. We're sure that's the best way to go at the moment.
"Hopefully by Monday afternoon or Tuesday morning we'll have a pretty firm decision on whether he goes on tour or not."
Either Luther Burrell or Ollie Devoto will be promoted into the squad if Tuilagi fails to recover, but it is Ben Te'o who could really profit should the wrecking ball centre be withdrawn.
Te'o will play his final match for Leinster in Saturday's Guinness PRO12 final before joining Worcester immediately, thereby honouring Twickenham's edict on not picking overseas-based player and becoming eligible for the summer tour.
The Auckland-born 29-year-old, one of four uncapped players in the squad alongside props Ellis Genge and Kyle Sinckler and back row Teimana Harrison, converted from rugby league to union in 2014 and seen as a bruising alternative to Tuilagi at inside centre.
"Teo's in the squad so he has a great chance to play if he puts his best foot forward. We'll see how he goes," Jones said.
Owen Farrell incurred rib damage during Saracens' semi-final romp against Leicester when tackled by Genge, but is also present in the touring party with Jones dismissing any concern over his fitness.
"Knowing Owen it won't be a problem - he's probably training now," Jones said.
Sinckler caught Jones' eye during last week's three-day training camp in Brighton held in preparation for the pre-tour Test against Wales on Sunday, while Bristol's Genge has won admirers during his loan spell at Leicester.
Both are fiery and combative front rows whose temperaments fit Jones' plan to play "bodyline" rugby in Australia, although, as third choice at tighthead and loosehead, they are unlikely to play unless injury strikes.
"It's exciting because we've got two young uncapped props in the squad who are in their early 20s," Jones said.
"They're not ready to play Test rugby scrummaging-wise, but both have potentially Test-rugby competitive edges.
"Both are athletic, can carry the ball, are aggressive and a bit rough. Those are good things for props to have."
A shock omission is Chris Ashton, who has amassed 10 tries in eight matches since completing his 10-week ban for a neck-roll on Ulster's Luke Marshall that ruled him out of the RBS 6 Nations.
Ashton was thought to be a certainty to tour, but Marland Yarde has been preferred as one of three wings.
"It wasn't a tough call to make, it was an easy call to make. Ashton has done well, but there are parts of his game that he needs to work on," Jones said.
"We feel Marland is a player with a lot of growth in him and that's important because we're a young team that is building towards the 2019 World Cup. We want players who are going to grow.
"Chris has scored a lot of tries, but there's a part of the game where you don't have the ball.
"I've had a chat to Chris about my decision and in my eyes he's not in the top three wings in England."
Henry Slade features after missing the march to a first Grand Slam since 2003 because of a broken leg, while Jones described Joe Marler's decision to rule himself out in order to rest as "massively courageous".