Rugby

Manu Tuilagi has ‘some really good years ahead’, says Kevin Sinfield

Tuilagi is in contention to start for England against Scotland.

Manu Tuilagi is in contention to play against Scotland on Saturday
Manu Tuilagi Manu Tuilagi is in contention to play against Scotland on Saturday (Ben Whitley/PA)

England are considering unleashing Manu Tuilagi against Scotland amid a warning from Kevin Sinfield that the midfield powerhouse remains a potent force.

Tuilagi is in contention to make his first appearance of the Guinness Six Nations at Murrayfield on Saturday, having been sidelined since December because of a groin tear.

It is the latest of many injury setbacks for the 32-year-old Sale Sharks centre, who broke his hand twice at last autumn’s World Cup, ruling him out of the start of the club season.

Tuilagi’s return would provide the ball-carrying muscle missing from England’s back line – Ollie Lawrence is also an option for the role – and Sinfield insists he still has plenty to offer the national side.

Manu Tuilagi could start at inside centre or perform a bench role against Scotland
Manu Tuilagi could start at inside centre or perform a bench role against Scotland Manu Tuilagi could start at inside centre or perform a bench role against Scotland (David Davies/PA)

“I would say this without any doubt – don’t write him off yet,” the assistant coach said.

“He’s still got some really good years ahead of him and he’s very much a big part of how we move forward and what we are doing here.

“When you play like he has done for so long, and you are so physical, it is inevitable that at some point in your career you will have a run of injuries.

“What you find with the powerful-type guys, one injury tends to lead into another.”

Also back in contention for the pivotal round-three encounter in Edinburgh is George Martin, the star of England’s heartbreaking World Cup semi-final defeat to South Africa who is fully fit after tweaking his knee.

George Martin is a powerful back five enforcer
George Martin is a powerful back five enforcer George Martin is a powerful back five enforcer (Adam Davy/PA)

The 22-year-old enforcer, who can operate at lock or blindside flanker, stood toe to toe with the Springboks and his physicality will be a valuable asset against Scotland.

“Big. Physical. Aggressive. Great ball carrier and he’s one of our better defenders,” Sinfield said.

“In the semi-final he really stood out on the international stage against some of the biggest, nastiest, most aggressive forwards in the world. He was in and amongst it.

“If selected I have no doubt he’ll leave a mark on somebody. He’s already a top player, but he’s going to get better and better.”

England have won only one of their last six meetings with Scotland and visit Murrayfield knowing it is the most hostile of all opposition venues for Red Rose teams.

Kevin Sinfield is England’s skills coach
Kevin Sinfield is England's skills coach Kevin Sinfield is England’s skills coach

Fly-half George Ford has braced his side for a “niggly game” – he was targeted in the tunnel by Scotland number eight Ryan Wilson in 2018, sparking a brawl with Owen Farrell – and Sinfield insists frayed tempers are inevitable.

“There’s certainly going to be some niggle. When you’ve got two angry, nasty forward packs wanting to go at each other, there will be some niggle,” he said.

“It’s a Test match, there’s a lot at stake and we haven’t won against them for a number of years, so no doubt there’ll be some niggle.

“There will be some bits thrown at us over the next couple of days that we haven’t planned for or we haven’t quite expected.

“But that’s the nature of being in top-level sport and we meed to make the best of some of the circumstances we are faced with.

“The history is important for us to understand but it won’t change anything – we’re not going up there with any fear.

“We know how dangerous they are, we know they’re a good team, we know they’ve got some great players. But so have we.”