Tuilagi ‘deserves’ England shot in Ireland clash with Ford ready for return

Tuilagi ‘deserves’ England shot in Ireland clash with Ford ready for return

Tuilagi is available again after suspension, and offers a direct replacement for the injured Ollie Lawrence.

Sale powerhouse Tuilagi has slipped down England’s pecking order due to Bath star Lawrence’s fine form, but now appears to have the chance to reassert his Red Rose authority.

England could yet turn to their favoured 2019 World Cup midfield of George Ford, Owen Farrell and Tuilagi for the Aviva Stadium battle, where hosts Ireland will chase a second Grand Slam in five years.

Sale fly-half Ford was released last week and did not feature in Saturday’s 53-10 hammering by France, with England wanting the 29-year-old to chase match sharpness with the Sharks.

Ford has only just recovered full fitness after a long-term Achilles injury, but is now back to top speed, with Sinfield confirming: “He’s fit, fit and well, and fit to go.”

Return: Manu Tuilagi is set to earn his first England start since November against Ireland

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England kept Tuilagi in camp last week despite his suspension, and that move could pay dividend should the Samoa-born centre slot into the starting XV this weekend.

“Manu has been great in camp, we are disappointed to lose Ollie because he has played really well for us, but Manu has been outstanding and deserves a shot this week,” said Sinfield.

“He brings some physicality to us and we needed a bit more of that last weekend but we didn’t get it. Hopefully he will provide some of that at the weekend. Having him in camp, his influence has been great.

“I don’t think there are many teams around the world who have that quality of player as next cab off the rank, and he will be welcomed back and hopefully he can go and do a great job for us.”

England will feel the repercussions of Saturday’s record home defeat for some time to come. The challenge gets no easier on Saturday with Ireland sitting ahead of France as the world’s top-ranked team. Sinfield admitted the reaction to the France thrashing has been akin to a type of grief.

“Defeats like that leave a huge mark and you don’t forget, because there’s pain with them,” said Sinfield. “Handling it is really important, people deal with it very differently. It’s almost a form of grief but we worked through it.

“We’ve had two good sessions, a better session today and we look forward to what is an enormous game against the best team in the world. If you wanted a test and a challenge to find out what character we’ve got, we’ll find out.”

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