England head coach Eddie Jones believes a full pre-season will benefit Manu Tuilagi after the centre's latest injury setback saw him ruled out of England's summer fixtures.
Tuilagi was called up by England on Sunday following the conclusion of Sale Sharks' season after their Gallagher Premiership semi-final defeat to Exeter Chiefs, only to then be ruled out on Tuesday with what Jones described as a "slight hamstring injury". Jones added that Tuilagi will only be out for a couple of weeks as opposed to having picked up another long-term injury.
Tuilagi missed the bulk of the 2020/21 season after injuring his Achilles last September, returning for Sale's final three matches of the season.
"We've been really pleased with his progress mate. I think it's been very positive for him to come back from his Achilles and play with such vim and vigour," Jones said.
"He's been outstanding, so it's just a small, little setback. And it will allow him to have a really good pre-season and we expect him back next year in very good condition. So very positive, very positive."
Tuilagi's selection in the first place for a three-match series, which includes an 'A' match against Scotland 'A' on Sunday, raised eyebrows given England have otherwise opted to use their upcoming fixtures to blood uncapped players, with 21 new players in the current squad training to face Scotland 'A'. Jones added that had Tuilagi been fit, he would certainly have been called up.
"If he was fit, we would have used him, he wanted to play," Jones explained. "I had some chats with him and if he was fit to play we'd have played him. But he's not fit to play, so we're not going to play him.
"He gets the chance to have a really good long pre-season, get his body right, when you're a power athlete like him and you've had a few injuries, these soft-tissue injuries are not uncommon. What he needs to do is get his body in the best condition, then you minimise the chance of getting them."
England will name their side to face Scotland 'A' on Friday with a number of players in the frame to captain the side, with Jones yet to announce who will lead England this summer. Regular captain Owen Farrell is currently away with the British and Irish Lions.
George Furbank, the Northampton full-back, is training at fly-half and competing with Wasps' Jacob Umaga for the No 10 shirt this Sunday. England No 8 Billy Vunipola meanwhile has been rested with an eye on next season, while one of the uncapped players in Bath flanker Miles Reid has been forced to drop out of the squad. Reid was in good form towards the end of the season but is now out injured after suffering a facial fracture in training.
Jones said of Reid: "He is an impressive young boy, serious about his craft and I was impressed with his physical approach and his willingness to be coached so we are disappointed for him and now we wish him a good recovery."
Tuilagi withdraws from England squad with injury after escaping ban
By Charlie Morgan
Manu Tuilagi has withdrawn from the England squad due to a tight hamstring sustained during Sale Sharks’ Premiership semi-final loss to Exeter Chiefs.
The 30-year-old centre, who was assessed by his club and did not travel to the Lensbury training base in Teddington, will be replaced by Fraser Dingwall of Northampton Saints.
Tuilagi had been named as the most experienced member of an updated 36-man group to prepare for a fixture against Scotland A on Sunday at Welford Road.
Having been yellow-carded by referee Tom Foley for a high tackle on Exeter flanker Richard Capstick at the weekend, his withdrawal comes after the window for a possible citing – and a potential ban – has passed. Those reviewing the incident evidently did not believe it to have reached the threshold of a red card.
Theoretically, with England also facing USA and Canada in July, any suspension would have included these summer fixtures, rather than any at the start of next season, were Tuilagi in a position to play.
Capstick could not continue after Tuilagi’s tackle, which occurred in the opening five minutes, and Chiefs director of rugby Rob Baxter used his post-match interview with broadcaster BT Sport to address his gripes with the Rugby Football Union’s disciplinary process.
“We’ve got two players serving four-week bans now for two instances last week that didn’t even require a HIA,” Baxter said of the bans dished out to Dave Ewers and Sam Skinner following Exeter’s win over Sale the previous week for high tackles on Simon Hammersley and Faf de Klerk.
“Both of their lads [involved in the tackles] were out there playing. We had a guy wiped out in the first two minutes of the game [today]. He can take no further part in the game, and it’s [only] a yellow card.
“If someone can tell me that it’s making any sense to anybody who is involved in the game… I don’t know what sense it is making.”