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Mathew Tait: Manu Tuilagi and Leicester Tigers will return stronger

Mathew Tait has tipped Manu Tuilagi for a return to form and backed his Leicester Tigers side, subdued in recent weeks, to bite back against London Irish on Sunday.

Richard Cockerill’s side have lost their last three Aviva Premiership Rugby fixtures, including a narrow defeat to Harlequins at the Stoop last Friday.

While Tait was happy to see England centre Tuilagi return along with Tigers debutant Jean de Villiers, he insisted the squad were intently focused on returning to winning ways. 

Tigers’ problems, according to Tait, are largely self-inflicted and as such, easy to resolve, and the former England back believes they have enough class to pull through their mini-slump.  

“We have got too good players not to turn things around, but there is hard work to be done,” he said.

“It is frustrating because we gave them a lot of their points, but the consolation is that we have the ability to deal with those mistakes.

“It is obviously good to have Manu back and for Jean de Villiers to make his debut, but everyone is disappointed with the result.”

As for Tuilagi, Tait echoed Cockerill in urging caution over his return, but was adamant no one would be disappointed once the powerhouse centre hits his straps.

“Manu is getting sharper, it was a similar injury that I had myself and it is not going to be something that comes back instantly,” he explained.

“His groin is fine, but as for his match sharpness, that could be six or seven weeks. Everyone is aware of his qualities, he will get there and everyone will see the Manu that they know and want to see.”

Ex-Newcastle Falcons and Sale Sharks man Tait also praised director of rugby Cockerill’s relationship with head coach and former All-Black Aaron Mauger, who had a stint with Tigers as a player a decade ago.

He said: “Richard is pretty hard-nosed and he maintains that traditional Leicester ethos.

“Before the Harlequins game he told us in no uncertain terms that some of our play against Newcastle was unacceptable. Our accuracy at the breakdown for one, but that is Richard’s area of expertise.

“It is reassuring to have Aaron around. I am able to play a bit more and he has focused on getting our basic skills better. He has brought in a few new systems, but it is nothing drastic, just about being comfortable with the ball.

“He is great to have around and he knows all about the Leicester way, having been here as a player.”

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