Richard Cockerill tries to put the brakes on Manu Tuilagi's England return
Leicester Tigers boss Richard Cockerill believes Manu Tuilagi is not ready to play for England in next weekend's Six Nations clash with Wales.
The 24-year-old centre, who scored one of Leicester's four tries in an incident-packed 31-27 Aviva Premiership win at home to Exeter, looks set to be involved in the game at Twickenham after being recalled to the squad.
After a win which moved Leicester up two places to third, Tuilagi joined up with England again but Cockerill thinks he needs another five or six games before he is ready to play Test rugby after 15 months out injured.
Cockerill, Leicester's director of rugby, said: "Manu did some good things today but I don't think he is ready to play Test rugby.
"Even if you put him on the bench to be an impact player for the last half an hour, what happens if you have to put him on after five minutes?"
Cockerill said he would talk to England coach Eddie Jones but added: "He has all the power and if he wants to pick Manu he can pick Manu, whether that's the right thing or not.
"He is probably five or six games away from being fully fit to play 80 minutes of Test rugby.
"I'd love to keep him and look after him so we can manage his training week. At the moment he is not doing a full week's training because we need to save his load for game day.
"In a Test environment it's more difficult. Manu has still not played a huge amount of rugby after 15 months out of the game.
"He wants to be back in the mix. Whether that's right is for me and Eddie to have a discussion but, ultimately, it will be England's decision."
Leicester's bonus-point win puts them just five points behind second-placed Exeter but they suffered a real fright, conceding 21 unanswered second-half points as the visitors fought back from 31-6 down.
Cockerill said: "I thought we were clinical, we took our opportunities. I'm disappointed we let them back into the game, their second try turning the game into a contest.
"But I've just reminded the boys that Exeter are a good side and have been going well, but we deserved to win."
Leicester scored four tries in front of a 20,172 crowd, through Tuilagi, Peter Betham, Adam Thompstone and a penalty try. Freddie Burns kicked 11 points.
Exeter's three tries came from Dave Lewis, Ian Whitten and Kai Horstmann, whose last-minute effort earned his side a losing bonus point.
Exeter dominated large parts of the game despite having two players - ex-Tigers lock Geoff Parling and Matt Jess - sin-binned. Leicester's Dom Barrow was also yellow-carded.
Head coach Rob Baxter said: "We have looked at three games - Bath, Leicester and Newcastle - as a mini-league and if we can win next week we will have got two wins and a bonus point.
"That's pretty good form and I think we are the only team to take points from every fixture. That shows consistency.
"It was them scoring those points at the start of the second half that brought out the best in us.
"Our scrum was outstanding, it's not often you come to Welford Road and dominate the scrum.
"But we conceded four tries, some of them well constructed, and at the end of the day they got five points and came away with a good win."