Jones hopeful on Tuilagi return

Manu Tuilagi is tackled by Ben Smith

Manu Tuilagi has been capped 25 times by England, scoring 11 tries

England coach Eddie Jones says he “would like to think” centre Manu Tuilagi will be available for the Six Nations game against Wales on 12 March.

Tuilagi, who last played for England in 2014, has been sidelined for 15 months with groin and hamstring problems.

But he is set to return when Leicester face Harlequins on Friday, a match Jones said he would “probably” attend.

Tuilagi, 24, is not in contention for England’s next game, against Ireland on 27 February.

Leicester coach Richard Cockerill said on Wednesday he thought Tuilagi had “not played enough rugby at club level, never mind Test level” but added: “If Eddie decides to pick him because he is playing well enough then so be it.”

Asked later if Tuilagi might be ready for the Wales game, Jones said: “We’d like to think that but I’ve seen the comments by Richard Cockerill so I’ll have to get on that Leicester hotline.”

Tuilagi has scored 11 tries in 25 England appearances but his career has been blighted by off-field disciplinary issues, including jumping into Auckland harbour. He also pleaded guilty to assaulting two female police officers, but later said he had “owned up to what I’ve not done”.

Jones ‘not happy’ with England performances


Chris Robshaw (left) and Billy Vunipola were singled out for special praise by Eddie Jones

England top the Six Nations table after wins over Scotland and Italy in the opening two rounds, but Jones said he is not entirely satisfied with the way his team have played so far.

“I wouldn’t say I’m happy with where we are,” said the Australian, who replaced Stuart Lancaster as head coach in December. “I think we’re going in the right direction, but I don’t think we should get too excited at this stage.

“It’s that consistency of performance in the set-piece. First game, our line-out was excellent and our scrum wasn’t great. Second game, our scrum was good and our line-out wasn’t great.

“Our defence throughout has been outstanding so that’s been a strong point. But our breakdown and attack has fluctuated between very good and very poor.”

Jones praised back row forwards Billy Vunipola and Chris Robshaw, as well as centre Jonathan Joseph.

“Billy Vunipola has got the potential to be a really good player,” he said. “And in the last game, Chris Robshaw played close to one of his best games for England: really high work-rate, very industrious.

“So those guys have come through and obviously Joseph in the last game was really industrious in attack.”

Jones keeps us on our toes – Brown

Full-back Mike Brown says Jones’ management style is less structured than Lancaster’s.

“Eddie keeps players on their toes,” Brown said. “As soon as you get in that comfort zone, Eddie – tough character that he is – will notice that.

“He works us hard, but I’m also enjoying what he’s brought to training, and the way he wants to play suits me down to the ground.

“We’re trying to play really quick – we haven’t managed to do that yet in the first two games, but the way we’re training, when we get out on the field we can really hurt teams.

“We’re going to have to step up our performance against Ireland.”

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