The Leicester Tigers centre scored a try in last Sunday’s 27-23 defeat by Bath, where he played his first match in eight months after recovering from a knee injury suffered in January, and had his hopes pinned on an England recall for November’s games against Australia, Argentina and Samoa.
But the 26-year-old has suffered a fresh knee injury after damaging his meniscus which will require surgery, sidelining him for around 12 weeks, which will rule him out of the three autumn internationals as well as the start of Leicester’s European Champions Cup campaign.
A Leicester statement on Thursday morning confirmed: “Leicester Tigers centre Manu Tuilagi faces a spell on the sidelines after suffering a knee strain in Sunday’s Aviva Premiership opener.
“Tuilagi recovered from long-term injury in time to start the final warm-up fixture against the Ospreys and then opening game of the campaign against Bath, but he strained the meniscus in his left knee during the match. He will have surgery and recovery time is estimated at 12 weeks.”
The news is a desperate blow to Tuilagi, who has not played for England since March 2016 and has made just three starts in the last four years due to a string of serious injuries.
Tuilagi has played once for England in the last three years (Getty)
Having undergone surgery at the start of the year to repair damaged cruciate ligaments, there is relief in the fact that this latest blow is not to the same knee that he previously injured.
“This is not the knee that Manu injured last season and this is not a major injury in the context of what kept him out for the first half of this year,” said Leicester head coach Matt O’Connor.
“Manu has worked really hard with the medical and conditioning teams to come back from long-term injury and was starting to find his feet again on the pitch, but he’s just been very unlucky with this one.
“It was an innocuous bump, a freak incident in the game. On closer inspection there is some damage to the meniscus which needs to be addressed. We look forward to having him back at the end of his recovery period.”
Leicester have started Tuilagi and Matt Toomua just once (Getty)
The British and Irish Lions centre has won 26 caps for England, scoring 11 tries in the process, but he would likely have doubled that number…