Manu of mystery: Is Eddie Jones set to launch Tuilagi at Wallabies?

England's international Manu mystery deepened as Tuilagi was among 26 players retained for the showdown with Australia on Saturday, despite previous claims that he wouldn't be ready to play.
The 27-year-old Leicester centre's much-anticipated Test comeback has been a will-he, won't-he sub-plot of this entire autumn campaign. 
Eddie Jones
has made no secret of his desire to pick the Anglo-Samoan midfield wrecking ball, but the national coach has been forced to repeatedly abandon this selection target.
So many injuries have decimated Tuilagi's career in recent years and now, just when he is within touching distance of a return, he has been held up by yet another setback. A minor groin problem has been hampering him in recent weeks, since he named among the replacements for the opening Quilter Test against South Africa, only to be withdrawn at short notice.
Tuilagi has not played for his country since March, 2016 and has not started a Test since June, 2014. There is a palpable sense of impatience within the squad about seeing him back in international action. 
England's players know that they have a lethal weapon at their disposal, as and when he is finally ready to be unleashed.
That may be this weekend. Or it may not. Confusion reigns. In the aftermath of his side's victory over Japan last Saturday, Jones all but ruled Tuilagi out of this clash with the Wallabies. 
He said that his involvement was 'very unlikely'. But he has continued to train. He is being medically assessed on a daily basis. He is still in the squad and the official word is that he is 'in contention'.
If the idea is to disrupt Australia's build-up, it is surely working a treat. England with Tuilagi or England without him are two very different teams to prepare for. The Wallabies head coach, Michael Cheika, will be operating in the dark, such have been the mixed signals from Red Rose HQ.
The conspiracy theory doing the rounds on Tueaday at England's training base in Surrey was that this is all a ruse; that Jones would play down Tuilagi's prospects of playing, only to unleash him from the start at outside centre. 
However, sources have indicated to Sportsmail
that a starting place is unlikely to be kept open for him. Instead, maybe, just maybe, there is a bench berth with his name on it, if he comes through training on Wednesday.
England have lost Chris Ashton, with the Sale wing returning to his club last night after a scan revealed that he has sustained sufficient damage to his calf to halt his own return to the Test arena. 
On that basis, the most likely scenario is that the hosts will revert to the back line which started against South Africa on November 3; namely Elliot Daly at full-back, Jonny May and Jack Nowell on the wings, Ben Te'o and Henry Slade in midfield, with Ben Youngs and Owen Farrell at half-back.
As of last night, with 26 players left in camp — after Worcester rookie Ted Hill was released, along with Ashton — the backs on the bench are set to be Richard Wigglesworth, George Ford and AN Other. 
That final replacement will be one of Tuilagi or Bath's giant wing, Joe Cokanasiga — who did so well on his try-scoring debut last weekend. Piers Francis is also still in camp, but is most likely there as cover in the event Tuilagi is ruled out.
Meanwhile, there has been considerable upheaval for the Wallabies this week, as a sickness bug has swept through their ranks — affecting 10 players and staff. 
Key men Bernard Foley and Israel Folau have taken a very limited part in training, while influential back-rower David Pocock remains a major doubt due to a neck injury sustained in the win over Italy four days ago.

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