'He is progressing nicely' – Tuilagi poised for England return against Australia

Manu Tuilagi is expected to make his long-awaited England return in their final autumn international against Australia on 24 November.

The Leicester centre was expected to play against South Africa in the first match of the autumn, but he suffered a groin injury in training.

Saturday’s fixture against 2019 World Cup hosts Japan will come too soon, but defence coach John Mitchell says Tuilagi could face the Wallabies.

“Manu is progressing nicely,” he said.

“He was doing some running intervals with the medical team. We’ll make a decision once he’s at 100% but we’re working him towards the Australia game.

“It’s an adductor injury that needs to be trained at high intensity.

“He hasn’t reached high intensity yet, so he is progressing towards that.”

Former New Zealand coach Mitchell believes England are closing the gap on the All Blacks after suffering a one-point defeat to the world champions last weekend.

Steve Hansen’s men overturned a 15-point advantage to lead 16-15, before Sam Underhill’s late score was disallowed because of a tight offside call against Courtney Lawes in the build-up to the try.

“It was a really good performance, a real ding-dong and a game of inches,” Mitchell said.

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“You can be critical of some costly errors as the game wore on and there was a big moment in terms of a TMO decision.

“If you put all those things aside and look at where we want to head to, we got a lot of belief out of it.

“The gap is very small, but there’s still a gap that we want to continue to narrow and clearly we’ve got time to do that.”

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