After scoring in his first start of 2022, Manu Tuilagi is ready to complete his England comeback at Twickenham on Saturday and could even start the must-win showdown against Wales.
Tuilagi, 30, hasn't played for his country since injuring his hamstring while scoring early on in the November win over South Africa, hoping to make his first Six Nations appearance since March 2020.
Titleholders Wales and bitter rivals England have each won once and lost once after two rounds of this year's tournament, while France are the only team with a shot at the Grand Slam after winning both their games.
It means defeat at Headquarters this weekend would likely spell the end of any fleeting hopes England or Wales have of clinching the 2022 crown, though the former's chances are better off with Tuilagi in the mix.
The 46-cap international made his first Premiership start since October when Sale Sharks hammered Worcester 36-12 on February 12, capping the performance with his first club try of the campaign.
Tuilagi appeared on the latest episode of the BBC Rugby Union Daily podcast and was asked whether he feels ready to start against Wales, to which he replied: "Yeah I feel good.”
“We had a good session today [Monday]. We have a tough day tomorrow [Tuesday].
"I can’t wait. It’s a very exciting week, a massive game against Wales, a must-win game. Twickenham with a full crowd is amazing, the boys can’t wait.
“The body is really good. It’s nice to get out there with the boys. It’s always tough to be injured and in the physio room all the time. To be out training and playing, it’s amazing. I love playing.”
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Eddie Jones could have done with Tuilagi's influence in midfield when England fell to Scotland in their Six Nations opener, where Elliot Daly lacked impact as a makeshift No. 13.
Centre has become an area of indecision among England's ranks while Tuilagi has coped with numerous injury setbacks in past seasons, leading to a long list of stars being tested without much success.
The likes of Ollie Lawrence, Ben Te'o, Luther Burrell and failed experiment Sam Burgess have each tried to plug the gap without much consistency in recent years.
But Tuilagi remains a constant source of terror among opposition squads when fully fit, and the fact Jones has recalled the player so swiftly is a sign of his ongoing trust in him.
Former British and Irish Lions captain Sam Warburton recently recalled a tale for The Times of Tuilagi's frightening power, supporting the notion that no-one else in the England squad offers what he can.
"As much as it appears a little desperate to go back to him so swiftly after injury, I expect England to select Tuilagi," the former Wales skipper wrote. "I was doing some BBC work with John Barclay and Ugo Monye when we watched his return for Sale Sharks against Harlequins (Feb. 6) and he made a huge hit on Andre Esterhuizen, who has been in such dominant form for Quins. He cut Esterhuizen in half and we all looked at each other and said: 'He’s straight back in that England team.'
"Tuilagi is simply the sort of player you do not want to face. There are not many of those around, but he is certainly one of them. If he hits you, you know all about it.
"He was only a teenager when he hit me in a pre-season match for Cardiff Blues against Leicester Tigers, and I was in complete shock. I lost the ball and everything. I remember saying: 'What the hell happened there?' I had never been so rattled in my life."
Wayne Pivac's side were embarrassed 29-7 by Ireland in their Six Nations curtain-raiser, but they restored some faith with a 20-17 win over Scotland, who had beaten England by the same scoreline one week prior.
Wales will travel to Twickenham seeking their first Six Nations win at the venue since February 25, 2012, which predates Saturday's fixture by almost exactly 10 years.
Tuilagi has fond memories of facing their neighbours considering he made his England debut in a 2011 win over Wales, having won four and lost four of his eight run-ins to date.
It also bodes well that England haven't lost a game at Twickenham with Tuilagi in their squad since succumbing to South Africa in November 2012.
Henry Slade appears settled as Jones' No. 12 of choice after starting both of England's games thus far, but question marks remain over Tuilagi's involvement ahead of Thursday's squad announcement.
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