LONDON (Reuters) – England centre Ben Te’o has been ruled out of their Six Nations opener against Ireland on Saturday with a side strain, opening the door for Manu Tuilagi to make his first start since 2014.
England coach Eddie Jones listed on Tuesday the 25 players in contention to face Six Nations champions Ireland in Dublin with the matchday squad and starting team for the encounter to be named on Thursday.
Te’o was omitted having suffered the injury in training in Portugal this week while Wasps flanker Brad Shields and Bath wing Joe Cokanasiga were also left out due to injury.
“We have Brad Shields, Joe Cokanasiga and Ben Te’o who are not far away from where we want them to be but in a game of this magnitude we need everyone to be 100 percent so they will stay with us and continue to rehab,” England scrum coach Neal Hatley said in a statement.
“The plan is to have them all fit for France.
“Ben suffered a small side strain in training, he is doing his rehab, is not far away, but as I say everyone needs to be fully fit.”
Te’o‘s absence means Jones is likely to turn to Tuilagi, who has played only a few minutes for England since his last start in 2014 after suffering a series of injuries.
The 27-year-old Leicester centre, who has not played in the Six Nations since 2013, made a tentative return to international action at the end of November, coming off the bench as England beat Australia at Twickenham.
“I’m fit and healthy – touch wood – and just enjoying being back,” Tuilagi told the BBC.
“It’s definitely as fit as I have ever been and everything is going well so far. It’s all about enjoyment for me.”
Luke Cowan-Dickie (Exeter Chiefs), Tom Curry (Sale Sharks), Ellis Genge (Leicester Tigers), Jamie George (Saracens), Nathan Hughes (Wasps), Maro Itoje (Saracens), George Kruis (Saracens), Joe Launchbury (Wasps), Courtney Lawes (Northampton Saints), Kyle Sinckler (Harlequins), Billy Vunipola (Saracens), Mako Vunipola (Saracens), Harry Williams (Exeter Chiefs), Mark Wilson (Newcastle Falcons).
Chris Ashton (Sale Sharks), Mike Brown (Harlequins), Elliot Daly (Wasps), Owen Farrell (Saracens) captain, George Ford (Leicester Tigers), Jonny May (Leicester Tigers), Jack Nowell (Exeter Chiefs), Dan Robson (Wasps), Henry Slade (Exeter Chiefs), Manu Tuilagi (Leicester Tigers), Ben Youngs (Leicester Tigers).
(Reporting by Toby Davis, editing by Pritha Sarkar)