Manu Tuilagi out for the season – will he miss Lions tour?
England's Samoan-born centre suffers yet another injury and is unlikely to make it to New Zealand this summer
England centre Manu Tuilagi will miss the Six Nations and has little chance of making the Lions tour this summer after being ruled out for the rest of the season with yet another injury, this time to his right knee.
The Samoan-born Leicester star badly damaged his anterior cruciate ligaments in a double tackle after just eight minutes of the defeat to Saracens on Sunday, following which Leicester fired director of rugby Richard Cockerill.
Asked about Tuilagi's injury, Tigers coach Aaron Mauger said: "It's looking like a six-month recovery which is devastating for the bloke, he's worked so hard to get back to where he is."
He said that he did not expect the Samoan player to return until next season, but said he was sure he would come back "a better player and a stronger person".
But not everyone is convinced. The latest setback is a "cruel blow" that will "reawaken" fears over Tuilagi's long-term prospects, says Daniel Schofield of the Daily Telegraph. He has only played 17 minutes of rugby for England since Eddie Jones took over.
"At his best, Tuilagi figures among the most destructive ball-carriers in world rugby and successive England coaches, including Jones, have been desperate to harness that power," adds Schofield. "Although he has recently lost 4kg from his upper body, there remains a suspicion that his joints cannot withstand his bulk.
"It is equally cruel for Leicester who have invested so much hope, and indeed money, in the Samoan-born centre, who is English rugby's best-paid player on approximately £425,000 a year."
It's bad news for both Jones and Lions coach Warren Gatland. "As well as missing the Six Nations, which starts on 4 February, he will not be available for the British and Irish Lions tour of New Zealand in the summer," says the BBC.
Tuilagi was only six games into his latest comeback having previously suffered a series of muscle injuries. He missed all but one game of the 2014 Six Nations after tearing a pectoral muscle and his last start for England came on the tour of New Zealand that summer.
In September of 2014 he picked up a groin injury that sidelined him for 15 months. A recurrence of that injury in Tigers's opening game of the current Premiership season in September ruled him out until late November.
Tuilagi has started only 11 Premiership matches for Leicester since the start of the 2014-15 season and is unlikely to add to that total this campaign.
"Such has been the relentless pile-up of injuries, there will be renewed debate about whether or not the imposing Anglo-Samoan midfielder has a future in the game, amid fears that his body simply cannot withstand the punishment," says Chris Foy of Mail Online. "However, at just 24, he has time on his side."