Six Nations

De Villiers backs Tuilagi for England return

Former Springboks captain Jean de Villiers has backed Leicester Tigers team-mate Manu Tuilagi to play some part in England's Six Nations clash with Wales.

The powerful centre was named in Eddie Jones' 33-man training squad ahead of the match on March 12 after making a successful comeback from 15 months out due to a groin injury in recent weeks.

Tuilagi played 80 minutes in Leicester's 47-20 triumph over London Irish last weekend and his club-mate De Villiers believes the 24-year-old is ready for an international return.

"He's had two games of 80 minutes under his belt now, he's probably not there yet to play an international game for 80 minutes but he's certainly got the skillset to add a lot of value to that England team," the South African told the BBC.

"He's definitely been boxed in and sort of labelled as only a guy who can bash it up. His skillset is actually very good, he can add that to the game as well. 

"Having a guy like Manu in the 23 – whether he's starting or not – just brings something different, if you have Owen Farrell at 12 and Jonathan Joseph [at 13] you have got three very different players who add a lot of value to that team.

"If I take my Leicester cap off, I would say put him in the 23, whether you start him or bring him on for 20 minutes he'll make a big impact and England will be better off. I also think the balance of the side is so much better with him there."

However, De Villiers did urge caution for England not to expect too much too soon after Tuilagi's long lay-off.

He added: "I can understand anyone who wants to get him involved as soon as possible but I think with Manu's case it's looking long term and making sure that the short term goals they want to achieve want harm his long term progress. 

"He needs to be playing international rugby for another 10 years, got to make sure you make the right decisions now. 

"I am not saying he should or should not play, it is just about being able to – between club and country – make sure the right decisions are being made."