Kevin Sinfield defends under-fire England Six Nations star | Rugby | Sport

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England coach Kevin Sinfield has told Manu Tuilagi’s doubters: “Don’t write him off yet.” Sinfield is excited about the returns of Ollie Lawrence and Tuilagi for this weekend’s Calcutta Cup clash with Scotland at Murrayfield.

Sinfield expects big things from the midfield duo, plus heavyweight George Martin. Lawrence and Tuilagi are back in the 36-man squad after missing the first two Six Nations matches – wins over Italy and Wales – due to injury.

Robust Sale Sharks centre Tuilagi was struggling with a groin problem and has succumbed to more and more injuries of late. He broke his hand twice at the World Cup and has been plagued by hamstring issues.

But Sinfield insists the 32-year-old powerhouse is far from done ahead of the showdown with Scotland. And he hopes for a massive impact from Tuilagi and Martin in particular.

The assistant said: “When you play like Manu has done for so long, and you are so physical, it is inevitable that at some point in your career you will have a run of injuries. Don’t write him off yet. He’s still got some really good years ahead of him.

“George is big, physical and aggressive. You saw in the semi-final last year when he really stood out on the international stage against some of the biggest, nastiest, aggressive forwards in the world he was in and amongst it.

“If selected at the weekend I have no doubt he’ll leave a mark on somebody. He’s already a top player, but he’s going to get better and better.”

Former rugby league star Sinfield is sure England are ready for the physical battle against the Scots and anticipates plenty of nastiness. He explained: “There’s certainly going to be some niggle. When you’ve got two angry, nasty forward packs wanting to go at each other, there’ll be some niggle.

“It’s a Test match, there’s a lot at stake and we haven’t won against them for a number of years. There’ll be some bits thrown at us over the next couple of days that we haven’t planned for or we haven’t quite expected.

“But that’s the nature of being in top-level sport and watching the team evolve and make the best of some of the circumstances we are faced with.”

Sinfield and his coaches have been studying Finn Russell closely, getting tips from players who know him well. Lawrence, the uncapped Max Ojomoh and Ben Spencer all play with Russell at Bath and have been helping prepare their England team-mates to face the fly-half.

“It’s really helpful,” Sinfield added. “We’d be daft not to tap into some of that knowledge and try and understand a bit about how he plays at Bath, and what we think he will take up to Scotland camp.

“The coaching team here have done their homework – and there’s been a lot of homework to do on him. He’s an outstanding guy, and a wonderful player. We are under no illusions that at some point during the game on Saturday he’ll come up with something that is pretty special.”

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