Sale star Tuilagi faces wait over Six Nations fitness for England

Manu Tuilagi faces an anxious wait to discover whether he will be fit to feature in the opening stages of the Six Nations after Sale push his return from injury back to the opening weekend of the tournament

  • Sale are hopeful Manu Tuilagi will return from his hamstring injury on February 6
  • That timescale would rule him out of England’s Six Nations opener a day earlier
  • Director of rugby Alex Sanderson says Tuilagi could play for England a week later
  • Scotland, who England face first, are hoping their stars will not be hit by injuries

Manu Tuilagi’s chances of featuring for England in the first two rounds of the Six Nations took a hit on Friday, after his Sale return was pushed back to the first weekend of the tournament.

The centre has not played since suffering a hamstring injury in England’s 27-26 win over South Africa on November 20.

Sale had hoped the 30-year-old would be fit to meet Leicester on Sunday but he is now pencilled in to face Harlequins on February 6. England begin their Six Nations campaign against Scotland a day earlier.

Sale are hoping Manu Tuilagi will be back in club action a day after the Six Nations action starts

World Cup star Tuilagi has been sidelined with a hamstring problem but is close to returning

Sale director of rugby Alex Sanderson has suggested Tuilagi could be considered for England’s trip to Italy on February 13 if he comes through the Quins match. But England head coach Eddie Jones is unlikely to take a gamble on Tuilagi, given his long history of muscle injuries.

Sanderson said of Tuilagi: ‘It is too much of a risk to push him this weekend. ‘Harlequins is the projected return and then we’ll see how he feels for the Six Nations. England have total autonomy over when he plays and doesn’t play.’

Tuilagi’s injury means Exeter’s Henry Slade is likely to fill the inside centre berth for England’s Calcutta Cup clash with Scotland.

England’s first Six Nations opponents face a nervous weekend, with Stuart Hogg, Finn Russell, Duhan van der Merwe, Rory Sutherland and Chris Harris all involved in domestic action.

Sale rugby boss Alex Sanderson has said England have full autonomy over Tuilagi’s comeback

The five are certain starters against England, so Scotland head coach Gregor Townsend will be praying they do not suffer any fitness problems.

While England’s stars have their feet up, Russell starts for Racing 92 against European champions Toulouse in the Top 14.

Meanwhile, Hogg (Exeter), Van der Merwe and Sutherland (both Worcester) and Harris (Gloucester) are all in Premiership action.

Wales also have their captain Dan Biggar, plus Louis Rees-Zammit and Nick Tompkins, on Premiership duty.

England head coach Eddie Jones is unlikely to take a gamble on Tuilagi on February 13

Mark McCall will take a short break from his role as Saracens director of rugby for medical reasons.

McCall took charge of the club in 2009 and has since won five Premiership titles and three Champions Cups.

Saracens assistants Joe Shaw, Adam Powell, Dan Vickers, Kevin Sorrell and Kelly Brown will take joint charge of the team at Wasps tomorrow.

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