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Tuilagi relishing England return

Manu Tuilagi is ready to unleash six months of frustration upon Italy if he is called on to reinforce England's final assault on the RBS 6 Nations title.

Tuilagi is set to make his first appearance for Stuart Lancaster's team in a year after displacing Alex Goode from the bench for Saturday's Stadio Olimpico showdown.

The 22-year-old has recovered from a torn pectoral muscle that was initially diagnosed as an eight-week injury until a scan revealed that only surgery would repair the damage.

Forced to sit out last autumn's QBE Internationals and most of Leicester's season, he has watched helplessly as England have made outstanding progress in his absence.

With his return imminent, however, Tuilagi is determined make his presence felt once more.

"It's been a tough time and I've certainly missed the game," he said.

"You just want to be out there, especially with the way the boys are playing. You want to be part of the team, so getting back in is great.

"You can have pent up energy when you're out of the game for a while.

"When some players come back in after being injured they get a bit too excited and you think, "What are you doing?!'".

"But then it happens to you and you do the same. It's a natural thing to get excited when you haven't played for a while. It's been great in training.

"I've missed a lot of games for England (nine) and this injury is the longest I've ever had.

"It's tough to be out and watching your team-mates, but that's part of the game so you have to get on with it.

"If I get the opportunity to come off the bench I'll hopefully bring my normal game.

"I'm really excited to be back with the England boys and pulling on the shirt again."

Intensifying the disappointment of Tuilagi's lengthy spell of inactivity has been the emergence of Luther Burrell, who has excelled at outside centre in his absence.

Just four caps into his international career, Burrell has forged a strong partnership with Billy Twelvetrees that improves with each game.

"Luther and Billy are great players and the way they've been playing lately - especially in that game against Wales - has been great to watch," Tuilagi said.

"Obviously I want to be part of the team, but you've got to support the boys.

"It's going to take a lot of work for me to get back in, but hopefully I can keep doing what I do and I can be there."

Tuilagi will cover wing and centre from the bench and is likely to appear in the second half in the hope his fire-power will cause mayhem in the Italian ranks.

Ideally England will overwhelm the Azzurri by at least 50 points to place them in contention for the title if it is decided by points difference - Ireland and France are also in the mix - and know that, even short of match fitness, Tuilagi is a player to be feared.

Head coach Stuart Lancaster has no pre-prepared plan for Tuilagi's arrival of the bench.

"We'll wait and see how the game goes. He's trained on the wing as well as in the centre. He knows the calls and the plays," Lancaster said.

"It has been good to run him on the wing because that is where he played age-grade rugby.

"Manu will certainly have a free role to roam from the wing."


From Belfast Telegraph