Manu Tuilagi has been ruled out of rugby for the rest of the season after suffering significant ligament damage against Saracens on Sunday raising real fears about the England centre’s ability to return to test rugby.
Tuilagi sat out 15 months of rugby as he battled to overcome a serious groin injury and made the last of his 26 England appearances against Wales during last season’s Grand Slam campaign – his only cap under head coach Eddie Jones.
The Lions centre was hurt seven minutes into Leicester’s home defeat by Sarries and a scan in London has confirmed his season is over, ruling him out of the Lions tour to New Zealand which starts in May. It is a terrible set back for the 25-year-old who was supposed to be the wrecking ball England used to batter opposition defences on their way to becoming the best team in the world.
However, Tuilagi has been constantly beset by injury set backs and there were real fears he would not fully recover from the complicated groin problem that included splitting his pubic bone. The Leicester centre has shown incredible mental strength to fight back and regain his Leicester place and was rewarded with a place in the England training squad currently with Jones in Brighton.
Then came the knee ligament injury suffered as he was double tackled and an opponent fell on the back of his right leg. Tuilagi was immediately taken off by Leicester who the following day sacked Richard Cockerill, their director of rugby, who has done his best over the last two years to help the powerful centre return to rugby.
The stark facts show that Tuilagi has only started 11 Premiership matches in the last three campaigns and that will take a mental toll on a player who lives for the sport and is part of one of the great rugby families with his brothers appearing for Samoa.
With Tuilagi last starting a test for England in 2014, Jones has no option but to erase the 25-year-old’s name from his list of potential centre options until the start of next season. Tuilagi now faces yet another long period of rehabilitation and that will test his mental and physical strength.
Jones will now use Worcester’s Ben Teo a his main mid-field battering ram with the former rugby league player making a positive contribution to helping England finish last year unbeaten, winning 13 tests and they are favourites to retain the Six Nations despite a host of injury worries, now including the luckless Tuilagi.
As seen in Evening Standard