Tuilagi could make Rome return

Manu Tuilagi could be on England's bench for the Italy game

Manu Tuilagi could be on England's bench for the Italy game

First published in National Sport News © by

England are deliberating whether to recall Manu Tuilagi to the bench to reinforce their final assault on the RBS 6 Nations title.

Tuilagi is available having recovered from the torn pectoral muscle that has sidelined him for six months, although he has only one club appearance for Leicester in the bank since his return.

The challenge facing England at the Stadio Olimpico on Saturday is to overwhelm Italy and peg back Ireland's imposing points difference in case the title is decided on those grounds.

Head coach Stuart Lancaster is reluctant to change the starting XV that excelled in defeating Wales 29-18 on Sunday, but views Tuilagi as a possible replacement.

Mindful of the explosive impact Tuilagi could have on a match demanding an avalanche of tries, Lancaster may decide he needs the wrecking-ball British and Irish Lion at his disposal.

"If we were to go down the route of using him on the bench he'd certainly have a big impact," said Lancaster, who would drop Alex Goode from the replacements if he opts for Tuilagi's firepower.

"We didn't feel that it was right to involve Manu against Wales because of his lack of training time with us. We'd be more comfortable bringing him in for this weekend.

"I haven't spoken to any of the players yet and there's someone who would lose their spot on the bench if that's the route we go down.

"One option is for him to cover wing and we have both Jack Nowell and Jonny May who can cover 15."

England are due to trim their squad to a matchday 23 on Tuesday night, at which point the final decision on Tuilagi will be known. The team is announced on Thursday.

Should Ireland defeat France in Paris, they will be all but assured of the title on the strength of their points difference of plus 49 unless the Red Rose mastermind a landslide victory in Rome.

Chris Robshaw will lead the Stadio Olimpico points grab emboldened by a ringing endorsement from the player he edged for the England captaincy and his head coach.

Robshaw entered the season with his place at openside threatened by Matt Kvesic and his status as skipper under challenge from close friend Tom Wood.

But having grown in stature throughout the autumn and been outstanding throughout the Six Nations, his authority is now beyond challenge on either front.

"Chris is an exceptional captain. First and foremost he's a really good guy so he's easy to follow," Wood said.

"He's very humble and hard working. He sets his own standards. He works very hard off the field in terms of his analysis.

"And it's visible for everybody to see and it inspires everybody to strive in the same way.

"He's not a Churchillian speaker and he doesn't have to be because he just says what needs saying and says it in the plainest terms.

"He's happy to delegate. It's not all about him. He speaks when he needs to and he speaks at the right moments. And he delegates when appropriate.

"Ultimately he's getting through some of the best stats - in terms of ball carries, rucks, offloads, tackles - week in, week out. He's always up there. He's easy to follow."

Robshaw received a similar endorsement from Lancaster, who has yet to install him as England's captain for the 2015 World Cup but will surely look only to the Harlequins openside to fill the post.

"From a stats points of view he's the top tackler and top carrier again, which takes some doing," Lancaster said.

"The forwards deserve a pat on the back and Robshaw is at the forefront of that. He's become a well-rounded player.

"He's got a great balance to his game at the moment. He's got the strength to break the gainline and the skills to make the pass as well."

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