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Injured Tuilagi out for 6 months in huge blow to England

MANCHESTER, England (AP) — England center Manu Tuilagi will miss the final match of the pandemic-prolonged Six Nations as well as the Autumn Nations Cup after being ruled out for six months because of a torn Achilles tendon on Thursday.

In the latest setback to a career decimated by serious injuries, Tuilagi was hurt playing for Sale Sharks in the English Premiership on Tuesday. He landed beneath Dan Biggar, Northampton’s Wales flyhalf, after charging out of the 22 following a scrum.

England coach Eddie Jones must plan for likely 10 tests without his most destructive runner in the backs — the last match of the 2020 Six Nations against Italy in Rome on Oct. 31; the newly devised Autumn Nations Cup, which replaces the usual tours of Europe by southern hemisphere and Asia teams; and probably all of next year’s Six Nations.

“It’s brutal what we’re playing at the minute," Sale director of rugby Steve Diamond said. “Dan Biggar fell on him, so it was an accident. These things happen.”

Tuilagi was a key weapon in England’s run to the Rugby World Cup final in Japan last year through his ball-carrying prowess in the backline.

Jones will be forced to adjust the balance of his midfield as a result, most likely opting for an axis of flyhalf George Ford and inside centers Owen Farrell and Henry Slade. Jonathan Joseph is another established option who will come into contention for the Italy game.

Groin, chest, knee and hamstring injuries have taken a toll on Tuilagi’s career, at one stage restricting him to one replacement appearance in four years.

In an additional blow to England, utility lock Courtney Lawes could also be out for some time after damaging his ankle in the same Northampton-Sale match at Franklin’s Gardens.

Lawes will see a specialist next week when a time frame for his rehabilitation will be drawn up, but his absence is certain to affect his availability for the Autumn Nations Cup.

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More AP sports: https://apnews.com/apf-sports and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

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