Rugby league convert Ben Te’o is the preferred ball-carrying option in midfield, despite being confined to only 28 minutes of action since May because of thigh and calf injuries.
Instead, Tuilagi will be unleashed upon the Springboks at Twickenham on Saturday as an impact substitute in the hope of making his power tell when the match is at its most disjointed.
It will be the 27-year-old’s first cap since 2016 following a savage run of groin, knee and hamstring injuries, compelling England head coach Jones to caution patience.
“All I want him to do is be brilliant at the basics. I don’t think we should over-hype his entry back in the England side,” Jones said.
“It’s been a long time and he’s played a couple of good games for Leicester. He’s in pretty good physical nick, so let’s just take it that he’ll make a difference when he comes on.”
Tuilagi has been a regular starter for Leicester this season, his recent man of the match performance against the Scarlets evidence of a player recapturing his form.
But at times during his long battle with a career-threatening groin problem he feared his return might never come.
“Of course I had doubts about getting back to this stage. We’re all human beings, we have our feelings,” Tuilagi said.
“You can be the strongest person but you always have your doubts. If you really love what you do it gets you up.
“I have a little family now as well with our little girl so life is completely different in a very positive way.
“I’m feeling better and better every time I get another 80 minutes for Leicester, which is natural. The only way you can get match fitness is by playing week in, week out.”
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