Injury-plagued Manu Tuilagi will miss England's entire 2017 Six Nations campaign after being ruled out for the rest of the season. The 25-year-old limped off in the eighth minute of Leicester's 16-12 New Year's Day Aviva Premiership defeat to Saracens at Welford Road just 24 hours after being named by Eddie Jones in a 33-man squad set to meet for a two-day pre-tournament training camp in Brighton this week.
Tuilagi was subsequently replaced by Bath wing Semesa Rokoduguni after sustaining what Richard Cockerill, who has since been sacked as Tigers director of rugby, initially described as a "bang on the outside of his right knee". He remained positive that such a blow might just be swelling and therefore only keep him sidelined for a couple of weeks, although interim replacement and head coach Aaron Mauger has now confirmed following scans an anterior cruciate ligament injury that will end the powerful centre's campaign.
"Unfortunately Manu sustained an ACL injury in the game on Sunday that's going to put him out for the rest of the season," he was quoted as saying by Sky Sports. "It's looking like a six-month recovery, which is devastating for the bloke, he's worked so hard to get back to where he is.
"He's absolutely gutted, but we've got a good support team around him, we'll put a good plan in place and we'll see him back on the field early next season."
He added: "Manu's started to show those signs in the last couple of weeks that's he's been in probably the best space that he's ever been in. We're really proud of the growth we've seen in him as a person.
"He was starting to get his explosive power and speed back and is really starting to understand the game better as well. He's starting to become a more complete footballer, which is a great space for him to be in."
In addition to missing the Six Nations and the rest of the domestic season, Tuilagi's hopes of featuring for the prestigious British and Irish Lions on their 10-match summer tour of New Zealand are now surely over.
This is the latest in a long line of devastating injury blows for Tuilagi, whose 16-minute replacement cameo against Wales in March was his first international appearance since a three-Test series against the All Blacks in 2014. He previously missed 15 months with a groin problem and later struggled with a knee issue before a hamstring complaint ruled him out of the summer whitewash of Australia.
A recurrence of that old groin trouble also sidelined him for the autumn internationals as England defeated South Africa, Argentina, Fiji and the Wallabies to finish the calendar year unbeaten, as well as equalling the record of 14 consecutive Test wins set by Sir Clive Woodward's World Cup winners.