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Tuilagi on the bench

Saturday, March 15, 2014

LONDON - Manu Tuilagi will start on the bench for England's final Six Nations game against Italy on Saturday after coach Stuart Lancaster named an unchanged starting XV.

Powerful centre Tuilagi has played just 70 minutes for club Leicester since regaining full fitness following a chest muscle injury and if he goes on in Rome's Olympic Stadium, it will be his first England appearance in more than a year.

The midfielder replaced Alex Goode on the bench in the only change to the England 23 that saw off two-time defending champions Wales 29-18 at Twickenham on Saturday.

"It's great to be able to name an unchanged XV and we have been able to achieve consistency of selection in a very competitive squad this campaign," Lancaster said Thursday.

With Goode no longer involved, one of the wings Jack Nowell or Jonny May will cover for full-back Mike Brown should the No.15 be removed from the action.

England's first task in Rome is to maintain their perfect record against Italy — bottom of the table and winless so far this Six Nations.

But if they are to overhaul leaders Ireland, in action against fellow title contenders France in Paris on Saturday, and win the Six Nations, England may well need to win by a distance.

Ireland are currently 49 points better off than England on points difference, who are themselves 29 ahead of France, with all three teams having won three out of their four matches in the Championship.

Any Ireland win on Saturday is likely to see them take the title but an England victory in Rome, coupled with a narrow French triumph in Paris, could see England crowned Six Nations champions for the first time under Lancaster after two successive runners-up finishes.

Tuilagi could be just the man to unleash against a tiring Italian defence. Lancaster, aware of what's required, said: "We have had a tight turnaround and the key this week has been to manage the players' recovery and get them in the best shape for what will be a tough match against Italy."

England: Mike Brown; Jack Nowell, Luther Burrell, Billy Twelvetrees, Jonny May; Owen Farrell, Danny Care; Ben Morgan, Chris Robshaw (capt), Tom Wood; Courtney Lawes, Joe Launchbury; David Wilson, Dylan Hartley, Joe Marler. Replacements: Tom Youngs, Mako Vunipola, Henry Thomas, Dave Attwood, Tom Johnson, Lee Dickson, George Ford, Manu Tuilagi

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