Fly-half George Ford believes it is positive for England to have such strong competition for places as Manu Tuilagi prepares to make his international comeback following a lengthy absence. The formidable Leicester Tigers centre was today called into Eddie Jones' -man squad that will prepare for the pivotal Six Nations encounter with championship rivals Wales on 12 March, a match that could represent his first cap since the 2014 tour of New Zealand.
Tuilagi has been besieged by injury setbacks since then, with a hamstring strain sustained on European Champions Cup duty against Stade Francais in January coming just three matches into his comeback following 15 months out with a serious groin problem.
"Manu's obviously a huge guy first and foremost. The way he carries the ball and the impact he has, he loves smashing people. He's obviously a great guy to have in the team. I don't know whether or not he's going to be back in but I think it's good for the squad that we have competition like that in every position."
Although there is obviously a real desire to have Tuilagi back in the fold, Jones acknowledges that the 24-year-old is currently only fit enough to withstand around 20 minutes of test rugby. That would hint that he is likely to be included as a replacement for the showdown against Wales, although his eventual return to peak condition could present something of an issue in terms of England's starting back division.
With Jones believing that the powerful ball-carrier is most effective at inside centre and Jonathan Joseph's place seemingly assured, it may be that a difficult decision will have to be made as to whether he intends to keep Ford at fly-half or else slide goal-kicker Owen Farrell back to his preferred position. Thus far the coach has been clear over his desire to retain the Bath , describing his performance against Ireland as "beautiful" and "poetry in motion".
"It fills you with massive confidence," Ford said of that belief. "The one thing he does say is that you've got to live up to that. You've got to go out there and train as well as you can. You've got to go out there and play as well as you can otherwise ultimately you'll end up losing that. He's not just saying it regardless, everyone's got to work for it. Everyone's got to perform. Everyone's got to keep getting better because that's one thing he's constantly striving for, is people day in, day out to get better at every area of the game."