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Richard Cockerill: 'Manu Tuilagi not yet ready for England return'

Leicester Tigers director of rugby Richard Cockerill warns that it is too soon to be thinking about fit-again Manu Tuilagi making his England return.

Leicester Tigers director of rugby Richard Cockerill has warned that Manu Tuilagi is not yet ready to make his England comeback.

The centre made his long-awaiting return for the Tigers in the second half of their 30-27 victory over the Northampton Saints on Saturday, ending a 15-month spell on the sidelines caused by a serious groin problem.

New England head coach Eddie Jones was among the spectators at Welford Road and has been tipped to include Tuilagi in his squad for the Six Nations, but Cockerill believes that their opening match against Scotland on February 6 will come too soon.

"He played 25 or so minutes, and he is remembering how to play rugby again. Hopefully, there will be no reaction to that. He will play next week and we will build his fitness up gradually. At this point, I am not sure he is ready to play Test match rugby," Cockerill told reporters.

"He has played 25 minutes in 15 months and it is a bit premature to be discussing Manu playing for England. He needs to play for Leicester, we need to get him fit and make sure he is 100% right before he starts playing Test matches.

"I will speak to Eddie in the next few days. Manu will keep improving, but the start of the Six Nations is unrealistic because we need to make sure he is 100% right."

Tuilagi won the last of his 25 England caps in June 2014.

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Ed Slater of Leicester Tigers addresses the media during the 2014/15 European Rugby Champions Cup and European Rugby Challenge Cup Tournament Launch at The Twickenham Stoop on October 8, 2014
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Thursday's key events


ROWING
· Comeback queen and super-mum Helen Glover goes for her third Olympic gold alongside Polly Swann in the women's pair final (1.30am)
· There is also a medal on offer for GB pair Emily Craig and Imogen Grant in the lightweight women's double scull final (2.10am)

SWIMMING
· As second-fastest qualifier for the final, Team GB's James Wilby is among the medal contenders in the men's 200m breaststroke (2.44am)
· Alys Thomas takes part in the women's 200m butterfly final, although he faces a difficult task to challenge for the medals (3.28am)
· Caeleb Dressel of the USA has been touted by some as the successor to Michael Phelps, and he has the chance to notch up a fourth Olympic gold in the men's 100m freestyle final (3.37am)

RUGBY SEVENS
· After Team GB's men narrowly missed out on a medal, the women get their campaign underway against the Russian Olympic Committee (3am) and New Zealand (10.30am)

HOCKEY
· It is a Great Britain vs. Netherlands double-header, with the men up first in Pool B (4.15am)
· Most eyes will be on the women's showdown between the two nations, though, as Netherlands - the world's best team - look to gain revenge on GB for defeat in the 2016 Olympic final (11am)

CANOE SLALOM
· Mallory Franklin takes part in the women's canoe semi-final, and will hope to do enough to qualify for the final later in the day (6am-8.45am)

ARTISTIC GYMNASTICS
· With Simone Biles now out of the women's all-around final, the competition has been blown wide open. Team GB twins Jessica and Jennifer Gadirova are among those taking part (11.50am-2.05pm)

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