England may use Manu Tuilagi as ‘wrecking ball’ against Italy
England may recall Manu Tuilagi to their replacements bench as they plan one final attempt to take the Six Nations title this weekend.
England need to beat bottom-of-the-table Italy - winless so far in the tournament - in Rome on Saturday, ideally by a huge margin to erode Ireland's massive points difference advantage before the Irish kick off against France, the third side in title contention, later in the day in the final match.
Any sort of Ireland win is likely to see them crowned champions in Paris but a narrow French victory could yet suit England's purposes, while a draw would take points difference out of the equation - provided England beat the Italians, who they have yet to lose against in a test.
Powerful centre Tuilagi could be just the ideal "wrecking ball" to send on against a tiring Italian defence even though he has only recently come back from a chest muscle injury that sidelined him for six months and made only one club appearance for English champions Leicester since his return to fitness.
England coach Stuart Lancaster says he is reluctant to tamper with a starting XV who performed so impressively in beating defending Six Nations champions Wales 29-18 at Twickenham on Sunday.
But Lancaster said Tuilagi, who would probably come in for utility back Alex Goode if selected, was a replacement option.
"If we were to go down the route of using him on the bench he'd certainly have a big impact," Lancaster said.
"We didn't feel that it was right to involve Manu against Wales because of his lack of training time with us. We'd be more comfortable bringing him in for this weekend.
"I haven't spoken to any of the players yet and there's someone who would lose their spot on the bench if that's the route we go down.
"One option is for him to cover wing and we have both Jack Nowell and Jonny May who can cover 15," added Lancaster, who is due to name his match-day 23 on Thursday.
One decision that won't be a worry for Lancaster, fitness permitting, is selecting Chris Robshaw as his captain.
There was talk of Lancaster passing the England captaincy to Robshaw's fellow back-row forward Tom Wood.
But Lancaster remained loyal and now only injury, it seems, can prevent the Harlequins flanker leading the side at next year's World Cup, which England will host.
"From a stats points of view he's the top tackler and top carrier again, which takes some doing," Lancaster said. "The forwards deserve a pat on the back and Robshaw is at the forefront of that. He's become a well-rounded player.
"He's got a great balance to his game at the moment. He's got the strength to break the gainline and the skills to make the pass as well."
Meanwhile, Clive Woodward says England's impressive win over Wales makes them "serious contenders" for next year's World Cup on home soil.
And he paid them the ultimate compliment by saying the manner of their success reminded him of the England team he guided to World Cup glory back in 2003.
"It is one year, six months and 16 days until England and Wales meet again here at Twickenham in what will be the most anticipated World Cup pool match in history," Woodward wrote in his Daily Mail column.
"In the course of 80 minutes on Sunday, the landscape shifted entirely.
"Stuart Lancaster's developing side will be serious contenders at the World Cup because they are playing a brand of rugby that is bringing the best out of their undoubted talent.
"This is the first time this team really reminded me of the 2003 World Cup side because of the pack's handling skills and confidence," Woodward added.