Manu Tuilagi has expressed his delight at his return to the England set-up but is not taking his selection for Saturday’s game against South Africa for granted.
A return to form and fitness prompted Tuilagi’s return to Eddie Jones’ squad for a testing autumn campaign that will also include clashes against New Zealand, Japan and Australia.
England vs South Africa
November 3, 2018, 2:30pm
Tuilagi is now in line for his first international appearance since 2016 and could hand England a timely boost with the Rugby World Cup less than a year away.
“I’m just enjoying being back with the team and with the boys,” Tuilagi told Sky Sports from the squad’s training camp in Vilamoura, Portugal.
“I’m getting myself up to speed with everything on an off the pitch because you don’t know how long it will last!”
Tuilagi offered further evidence that he is nearing his best with a try-scoring performance in Leicester’s Heineken Champions Cup victory Scarlets earlier this month but he is not looking too far ahead.
“I’m getting there, every game I play at Leicester the better I feel,” he said.
“You can train as hard as you can but you can never get that match fitness but I feel good and have been enjoying training with the boys.”
Reflecting on his catalogue of injuries and his long battle for fitness, the 27-year-old insisted he never lost hope.
“It’s been tough, the main one was my groin, that was hard to get back from, it took me a long time, but I have always believed I would get back on the pitch and enjoy it again,” Tuilagi said.
“Keep a positive mindset to achieve what you want to achieve. I always say, take it day by day, week by week, and hopefully we will get there.
“We all know as players, the older you get he more you have to focus on the after-training stuff, the stretching, recovery, ice baths, massage and all that stuff, it’s coming to that point for me now.”
Tuilagi has the full support of the rest of the England squad including his Tigers team-mate Ben Youngs who offered a vote of confidence.
“As a team-mate and a friend it is great to see him back involved,” Youngs said. ” I think everyone knows what he is capable of and I know this system can get the best out of him. He has worked extremely hard to get back in this team and everyone is right behind him.”
Tuilagi is set to be included by Jones when he names his squad to face the Boks on Thursday but for now is just relishing being in the conversation.
“It is always an honour to pull on the England shirt, if I am selected, and that’s the thing,” he said.
“For me I am just enjoying being back in the England system, I just now need to get up to speed with the game plan because we need to be sharp and everyone has to be together.”
#Followtherose this autumn with all of England’s Tests live on Sky Sports throughout November. The action starts on Saturday November 3 against South Africa before clashes against New Zealand, Japan and Australia.
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