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Chris Ashton set to end four-year England exile as Tuilagi pulls out

The powerful centre has a groin complaint, but is expected to be fit for the Test against New Zealand next week.

Ashton played for the Barbarians against England in May.
Ashton played for the Barbarians against England in May.
Image: PA Wire/PA Images

MANU TUILAGI’S LONG-AWAITED return to England duty has been put on hold again after the centre has been ruled out of tomorrow’s international against South Africa at Twickenham with a minor groin strain.

Tuilagi, who had been named on the bench, suffered the injury during training on yesterday and it was announced today that he had been withdrawn from England coach Eddie Jones’ matchday 23.

Sale wing Chris Ashton will now fill the vacancy on the bench created by Tuilagi’s absence and the call-up leaves him on the brink of ending a four-year England exile.

The wing, who won his 39th cap against New Zealand in 2014, will hope to earn his 40th as a replacement. A season in Toulon and a succession of long-term bans played a part in Ashton’s absence, as did Stuart Lancaster’s wish to instill a culture of humility throughout the England squad.

The prolific wing returned to England from France this season and marked his Sharks debut by scoring a hat-trick against Connacht.

“It’s brilliant for Chris Ashton who made the decision to come back from Toulon where life was very comfortable for him,” said England scrum coach Neal Hatley.

“To bring someone like him back in is brilliant.”

Leicester powerhouse midfielder Tuilagi last played for England in 2016, with the 27-year-old’s career for club and country interrupted by a series of groin, knee and hamstring injuries during the intervening two years.

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England, however, were confident that Tuilagi, capped 26 times by the Red Rose, would be fit for next weekend’s home clash with world champions New Zealand.

Rugby Union - QBE International - England v New Zealand - Twickenham Tuilagi famously helped England beat the All Blacks in 2012. Source: PA Archive/PA Images

“Manu picked up a very minor strain to his groin yesterday (Thursday) during training,” Hatley told reporters at Twickenham today.

“We are expecting him to be right for New Zealand week. If tomorrow was a World Cup final then we probably would have kept him in,” he added.

 


Source: Heineken Rugby Weekly on The42/SoundCloud

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