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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With less than a year to go until Rugby World Cup 2019 in Japan, the litmus tests are being readied to gauge where the leading nations are in terms of their preparation.
For the sides in the northern hemisphere, the autumn internationals often prove the perfect arena to assess a side’s standing on the world stage, when up against the best those south of the equator have to offer.
This year is no different, but the looming battle for the Webb Ellis trophy adds a little spice for sure.
Joe Schmidt, Eddie Jones, Warren Gatland et al have had the opportunity to size up the big four from the south, you have to include Argentina in this now, and will have varying degrees of trepidation and optimism entering the next month of matches.
On the face of the Rugby Championship, Australia are ropy, South Africa improving, Argentina dangerous, and whisper it quietly, New Zealand vulnerable.
The man who will be licking his lips most will be Joe Schmidt. His Ireland side is head and shoulders above anything in north at the moment, and will be looking to bolster their reputation as genuine contenders in Japan.
An injured Conor Murray will not help, but he could still return to face the All Blacks, but a squad which can turn out two world-class packs is one to be feared and given the right platform they have the backs to cause anyone issues.
While the men in green kick off their campaign against Italy and close proceedings with the USA, these fixtures are sandwiched by mouth-watering clashes with New Zealand, and first Argentina.
Ireland have not always had change out of the Pumas, we all remember the 2015 World Cup humbling at the quarter-final stage, but on home soil should have more than enough to see them off, even if they do suffer a few scratch marks in the process.
Which leads us to New Zealand. A shootout between the two best sides in the world, and a real precursor to what might be 12 months from now.
It’s difficult to read into the All Blacks’ form, but wins against Australia will not put too much fear into anyone these days, and while losing once to South Africa, this could, and should, have been twice.
Not for many a year, has the reigning world champions’ defence looked so leaky, their set-piece built on dodgy foundations, and even some of their attacking play been so disjointed.
If ever there was a chance for Ireland to notch a big win this is it. They can dominate up front, boss the territorial game, and punch holes at will. This is without doubt the time to play with the minds of the, at times flaky, All Blacks and give them something to think about as they target at third world cup on the bounce.
Elsewhere it has not exactly been the best preparation for Eddie Jones and his England side. They will once again be starved of the attacking threat of Billy Vunipola, and fans’ ire has been very real at the continuing omission of Danny Cipriani.
Jones will often describe these autumn games as merely light sparring, and he will do so again this time round – but the truth is, he writes the games off at his peril.
There are rays of hope for England, the re-emergence of Manu Tuilagi and Chris Ashton being key, as is the blooding of young hopefuls like Zach Mercer and Ben Noon.
They will see a weakened South Africa on the opening weekend, a work-in-progress Japan side, and an Australia side low on confidence as eminently winnable fixtures, but to really put some fire in the bellies of fans it will once again come down to the All Blacks.
As discussed, New Zealand are vulnerable but England just don’t feel in a position to capitalise.
The thought of Aston and Tuilagi picking holes in that brittle defence will warm English hearts, but even when the chips are down the Kiwis will often find a way of winning and that ought to be the case here.
Finally, we have Wales and Scotland. We’ll lump the two sides together because the result of their meeting on the opening weekend may well go a long way to deciding how their whole campaigns are viewed.
A win for either puts them on a good footing to chase southern scalps, while a defeat, well that’s not worth thinking about.
Neither side will take on New Zealand, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t some prime game to hunt.
The Springboks and Wallabies still constitute a prize victory for Warren Galtand and Gregor Townsend.
Wales in particular will not have a better chance to try and end their Austalia hoodoo, while Scotland will be looking to get some optimism back after a disappointing Six Nations.
In all, the four sides will be targeting a healthy win-loss column. Anything but four wins will be a disappointment for Ireland, while England, Wales and Scotland will all be targeting a minimum of three.
A year is not a long time in rugby union, and with Japan fast approaching on the horizon, there’s no time like the present to lay a marker down.
Ben Morgan has launched a successful scaffolding business knowing from personal experience that his Rugby career could be snatched away in an instant.
Morgan is in contention to start England’s autumn opener against South Africa on Saturday with an injury crisis at number eight offering the chance to win his first cap since the 2015 Rugby World Cup.
Injury has repeatedly stalked the powerful back row, but non were as damaging as the broken leg sustained the same year England endured a harrowing group exit from the tournament they were hosting.
Confronted by the need to generate revenue outside of Rugby to provide for his family he set-up No8 Scaffolding, which is now operating “flat out” and is in the process of expanding.
“When you’re in that Rugby bubble you feel invincible and that you’ll always be involved, but then you have a realisation when something bad happens,” Morgan said.
“When I broke my leg in 2015, I was like ‘this could all just go’. I have got my family to support and my son was born in 2015. I thought I have got to look after my family.
“I started to invest in certain things – I have got some property, set up a scaffolding company and I also have got property development interests.”
Billy Vunipola injury could be blessing in disguise as Ben Morgan offers crucial stability in England back rowhttps://t.co/vAU0SmqoJC— Stephen Phillips (@StevePhillipsXV) October 21, 2018
With Billy Vunipola, Nathan Hughes and Sam Simmonds injured, Morgan could soon ensure the harrowing Rugby World Cup defeat by Australia is not his final outing in an England jersey.
“The big thing for me is that I am a completely different person now to then. I have got a family, I have got two children. I have started a business,” Morgan said.
“When I was playing before, I was playing for my own aspirations and individual goals whereas now my goals and reason and drive is playing for my family and my kids.
“Having a deeper meaning is definitely a game changer. I am a lot more relaxed. You can at times put a lot of pressure on yourself and previously it was a pressure to be involved.
“Don’t get me wrong I have always got that desire to be here but I’ve made that peace that if I wasn’t then I was very proud of what I had achieved.”
England name their squad to face South Africa on Thursday morning with Morgan expected to pack down in a back row also featuring Tom Curry and Michael Rhodes.