Brian O'Driscoll: England cannot afford to ignore Manu Tuilagi when fit
Brian O'Driscoll insists Manu Tuilagi is "running out of lives" in response to the England centre's latest disciplinary lapse.
Tuilagi faces an uncertain international future after returning drunk to the team hotel around 4:30am on Monday morning, incurring the wrath of Eddie Jones who immediately sent him home from the three-day training camp.
England's head coach is deciding whether additional punishment is necessary and Tuilagi could be omitted from the next squad to be named on September 22.
Among the Leicester centre's previous misdemeanours are jumping off a ferry at the 2011 World Cup and a conviction for assault that saw him suspended by Stuart Lancaster for the next global showpiece four years later.
Former Ireland and British and Irish Lions captain O'Driscoll insists Tuilagi is guilty of a major lapse in judgement but believes England cannot afford to overlook him if he returns to form after several injury-blighted seasons.
"It's hard to not agree with what Eddie's done and maybe Manu needs to serve some penance now," BT Sport pundit O'Driscoll said.
"I'm a big fan of Manu as a person and as a player - I played and roomed with him on the 2013 Lions tour.
"He has a lot of really good qualities, but he's running out of lives after being given lots of second chances.
"It was an error of judgement for him to be out like that during an England camp. It was unnecessary and he should have kept his powder dry.
"He's been punished and now he'll have to earn the trust of Eddie and the players. It's made his recovery back into the England set-up more difficult.
"But you can't bite your nose off to spite your face. If Manu is fit and playing well, you can't ignore that.
"On his day he's a game breaker and you have to get as many of those in your team as you can.
"You can't throw someone like that out completely on the back of indiscretions, even if they've been too numerous for your liking."
Tuilagi has played only 17 minutes of Test rugby since England's 2014 summer tour to New Zealand due to serious knee and groin problems and his last start at Twickenham was over four years ago.
"When I played with him in 2013 I thought he'd be a superstar for years to come," O'Driscoll said.
"He's been riddled with long-term injuries so it's been hard for him to make any impact. He needs a run of games to show the best of himself as a player.
"Off-field he needs to play it a little bit smarter to make sure he doesn't find himself in any more compromising situations.
"He's still a relatively young man and is guilty of making some immature decisions. Don't write him off just yet."
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