Manu Tuilagi has been ruled out of England’s game against Wales with a hamstring problem.
The 30-year-old was set to make his first appearance of the 2022 Guinness Six Nations until a scan on Thursday afternoon, following training, showed that Tuilagi had suffered a low grade hamstring injury.
Joe Marchant has replaced him in the squad for the clash with the defending champions but it is not known yet whether the Harlequins utility back, or Elliot Daly, will start in the centres for England.
It was a hamstring injury that had meant Tuilagi missed out of the first two rounds of the Championship, having picked up the problem in his brief try-scoring cameo in England’s win over South Africa in November.
After proving his fitness during a couple of outings for club side Sale Sharks in the Premiership, Tuilagi was recalled straight back into the Red Rose midfield earlier on Thursday by Eddie Jones.
Speaking about Tuilagi’s importance after the team announcement, Jones said: “When he’s not there we don’t have that big back to play off. And it’s handy having a big back to play off because they dent the line and it creates space for the little guys to play small ball in that bigger space.
“He is a gain line accumulator, he wins the game line pretty consistently, he draws defenders in which creates space for other options, and he does that better than anyone else in the world when he’s at full tilt and we’re planning for him to be at full tilt on Saturday.”
But Tuilagi’s latest injury setback will come as a blow to England ahead of their crunch game against Wales at Rugby HQ, with defeat likely to end any chance of a title challenge for either side.
Even with Tuilagi’s absence, Jones still has plenty of options for his midfield partnership.
Henry Slade played at inside centre in the first two games and is expected to remain at No.12, while both Marchant and Daly have one game each at outside centre under their belt in the Championship already.
England have said they will name their updated XV on Saturday. Before Tuilagi’s injury, Jones had named a side that included Harry Randall at scrum-half and a return for Courtney Lawes to the captaincy.