England sweat on Manu Tuilagi injury
January 24, 2013
Manu Tuilagi proved a key threat for England in their victory over New Zealand in December © PA Photos
Tuilagi has been a key part of England's armoury since Lancaster took charge of the side and was in particularly devastating form during the stunning victory over New Zealand last month where he scored one try and set up two others. But he was withdrawn from Leicester's Heineken Cup clash with Toulouse on Sunday due to concerns about an ankle injury that is also in danger of ruling him out of the showdown with the Scots at Twickenham on February 2.
"I need a decision to be made early, by the weekend preferably, because if Manu is not available then there will be decisions to be made," Lancaster said. "Richard (Cockerill, the Leicester director of rugby) said he was 70-30 in the lead-up to the game and they pushed him.
"Manu is pretty optimistic that he's going to be alright but I don't want to say now that he's going to be fit or vice-versa. We'll just have to wait and see how he gets on. It's too early to tell."
If Tuilagi is ruled out, Lancaster will be forced to re-jig his backline with fly-half Toby Flood possibly in line to earn a recall that would also see Owen Farrell move into the midfield alongside Brad Barritt. Centres Billy Twelvetrees and Jonathan Joseph are also options at Lancaster's disposal while fullback Ben Foden's return to fitness and hooker Dylan Hartley's return from suspension give the England boss further food for thought.
"It is quite an interesting selection debate," Lancaster said. "I don't think selection going into the Scotland game is as simplistic as people perhaps think on the back of the All Blacks game.
"We've got a lot of decisions to make. Ben Foden is back, who obviously didn't play in the autumn. Dylan Hartley is back (from suspension). Dave Strettle is in. There's pressure and competition in every position, which is great."
Lancaster has already seen flanker Tom Johnson been ruled out for around three months after suffering severe knee ligament damage in Exeter's Heineken Cup defeat to Leinster at the weekend.
Gloucester fly-half Freddie Burns will also miss the Scotland game having picked up a similar but less severe knee ligament injury. Prop Alex Corbisiero is also struggling with a knee injury and underwent an operation on Wednesday. that will rule him out of the first two games as a minimum.
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