England centre Manu Tuilagi faces fight to be fit for Six Nations clash against Scotland after limping off in defeat by France… putting Jonathan Joseph on alert
England will discover the extent of Manu Tuilagi’s latest injury on Tuesday when the Leicester centre has an MRI scan.
The 28-year-old, who went off early in the first half of the 24-17 Six Nations defeat by France in Paris, is included in an unchanged squad for Saturday’s clash with Scotland.
The initial indications were that he had suffered more damage to his groin, though Sportsmail has been told there is a possibility Tuilagi has injured an abductor muscle.
Manu Tuilagi is retained in England’s Six Nations squad despite carrying a groin injury
Even the best-case scenario of a false alarm may not prevent him missing the Calcutta Cup showdown at Murrayfield, given the need to handle him with special care.
A groin twinge in late December saw him rested for a few weeks by his club. Coaches, medical staff and physios have long realised that the powerful Polynesian’s body struggles to take the strain he places on it, so he is cautiously managed.
In the event of Tuilagi being ruled out, Jonathan Joseph of Bath would be the primary candidate to replace him in England’s No 13 shirt, in the absence of the injured Henry Slade. Elliot Daly could be considered for a move infield, while Jones pointed to the presence of Northampton rookie Fraser Dingwall in explaining that he saw no need to call up another centre as cover.
Tuilagi lasted just 16 minutes during England’s opening game defeat by France in Paris
Despite criticism of his selection for the France game, notably in the back row, Jones has stuck to his guns. There have been growing calls to bring in a specialist No 8, in light of the fine club form shown by Alex Dombrandt and Sam Simmonds, but the coach dismissed the suggestion, saying: ‘Well, you pick your side, I’ll pick mine.
‘I have answered the question about Tom Curry. I see him as a long-term No 8, so I’m prepared to accept some mistakes, for him to learn and become a better No 8. We don’t have a one-game selection policy. Just look at players like Ellis Genge and how long it has taken him to be a Test player — four years.’
Jones is confident full-back Anthony Watson will be available but defended debutant George Furbank’s performance in France, saying: ‘I thought he was good.’
Scotland have not reinstated fly-half Finn Russell for the Calcutta Cup clash. The 27-year-old was axed for the Ireland defeat on Saturday after ‘breaching team protocol’ with a drinking session. Adam Hastings will continue at No 10.
ENGLAND’S 34-MAN SQUAD
Forwards: L Cowan-Dickie (Exeter Chiefs), T Curry (Sale Sharks), T Dunn (Bath Rugby), B Earl (Saracens), C Ewels (Bath Rugby), E Genge (Leicester Tigers), J George (Saracens), T Hill (Worcester Warriors), M Itoje (Saracens), G Kruis (Saracens), J Launchbury (Wasps), C Lawes (Northampton Saints), L Ludlam (Northampton Saints), J Marler (Harlequins), A Moon (Northampton Saints), K Sinckler (Harlequins), W Stuart (Bath Rugby), S Underhill (Bath Rugby), M Vunipola (Saracens), H Williams (Exeter Chiefs).
Backs: E Daly (Saracens), O Devoto (Exeter Chiefs), F Dingwall (Northampton Saints), O Farrell (Saracens), G Ford (Leicester Tigers), G Furbank (Northampton Saints), W Heinz (Gloucester Rugby), J Joseph (Bath Rugby), J May (Leicester Tigers), O Thorley (Gloucester Rugby), M Tuilagi (Leicester Tigers), J Umaga (Wasps), A Watson (Bath Rugby), B Youngs (Leicester Tigers).