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Tuilagi in frame for Test selection


Manu Tuilagi. Photo: David Davies/PA Wire

Manu Tuilagi. Photo: David Davies/PA Wire

Manu Tuilagi. Photo: David Davies/PA Wire

MANU TUILAGI might have thrust his sizeable frame into the British and Irish Lions Test team picture after starring in yesterday's 35-0 victory over Melbourne Rebels.

The Leicester and England powerhouse made his presence felt through a number of trademark surges, while he also played a key part in creating an outstanding first-half try for wing Sean Maitland.

There were also strong performances from the likes of number eight Toby Faletau, flanker Seán O'Brien, plus both locks Richie Gray and Ian Evans as the Lions fought back impressively from last week's 14-12 loss to the Brumbies in Canberra.

Lions head coach Warren Gatland is due to name his team for the second Test tomorrow.

Brian O'Driscoll and Jonathan Davies forged an impressive centre combination against Australia in Brisbane last Saturday, but Gatland might decide that he simply cannot do without Tuilagi's revered game-breaking quality.

And his contribution was all the more impressive given that he had not played since suffering a shoulder injury two weeks ago.

"The shoulder felt really good," he said. "There are no issues. I was straight into it with the contact.

"I feel good. I just wanted the game to go on.

"It was an open game with plenty of rugby played, and it was an exciting game to play in. I've been doing a lot of fitness work the last two weeks, so I am glad to be playing again so I don't have to do any more fitness!"

Gatland has stressed throughout the tour about selection being an open book, and Tuilagi led a handful of players who could not have done much more.



"I think a lot of us felt it was the last chance for all the lads that didn't play last Saturday to hold their hands up and do their best for the coaches. We will see if we figure on Saturday," he added.

"We left everything out there, and at the end of the day that is all you can ask or hope for.

"If I get the call for Saturday, I will be ready – there is no question about that. I feel as though I am back to where I was before the injury, so there's no doubt I am ready to go if selected.

"We just wanted to go out there and play some good rugby, get the offloading game going and try to keep the tempo up. The most important thing was to get the win and continue the momentum from last weekend."

The countdown now gathers pace to Saturday's second Test at Etihad Stadium, and Tuilagi said: "It is going to be a massive four days for us.

"Whoever is playing in that Test, it's all about the team. If you are not playing you've got to put all the disappointment aside and try to help all the players out who are going to play. Saturday is another game and everyone is desperate to be involved. I am no different. I want to play in the Test matches."