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Five potential centre options for England with Manu Tuilagi set to miss start of Six Nations

Manu Tuilagi played some of his best rugby in an England shirt during the World Cup, however it appears Steve Borthwick will be without the Sale Sharks back for the start of the Six Nations.

Reports emerged yesterday from the BBC that Tuilagi is set to miss the start of the tournament in February through a groin injury, but where does that leave England’s midfield?

For the majority of the World Cup, England looked to have had a settled centre partnership of Tuilagi and Marchant. Owen Farrell also pulled on the 12 jersey when required, but now Steve Borthwick is without all of these options; so who will he choose to step up?

Here are five potential options to fill the centre positions:

Henry Slade

The glaringly obvious option is experience England international Henry Slade. He was unlucky to miss out on the World Cup, however he looks to be playing his best rugby in an Exeter shirt again this year. He is man of the moment in Devon, and in the last three weeks has had three match winning moments for his club. His form definitely warrants a call-up, but will Borthwick still has his number?

Ollie Lawrence

Arguably the form player in the Premiership right now, Ollie Lawrence should be pressing to start this Six Nations. He found himself down the pecking order during the World Cup, but his current purple patch should leave a huge impression on Borthwick, and the unavailability of those players around him means Lawrence could really make the starting centre position his own for years to come. It is a huge opportunity for the young back, but will he be afforded the chance to take it?

Will Joseph

Harlequins back Will Joseph is in a similar boat to Lawrence. Thrust out of London Irish due to their collapse, but he has found a new lease of life in Quins colours this season. Since his switch to the Stoop, Joseph has really added to the attack with silky running and an ability to dance around defenders (much like his brother Jonathan). Despite his young age, he has already won an England cap during their tour of Australia in 2021, but could he add to his tally this Six Nations?

Tommy Freeman

The Tommy Freeman experiment continues, and it appears the Northampton man is finding his best position. He is still developing as a centre, but from the glimpses we have seen of him so far this season it could be a masterstroke developing these skills in the England setting. Furthermore, his versatility allows him to fit that same mould Joe Marchant had of covering both 13 and wing and this could hold him in good stead for a call up this Spring.

Sam Spink

The Western Force centre could be a bolter to make the England squad this Six Nations. Spink moved down under this year following the demise of Wasps, but it appears he has found his best form in Super Rugby. He is a powerful carrier with the ball, and can run through tackles for fun. This would give Borthwick another crash ball 12 to directly replace Manu Tuilagi. He may need to return to the Premiership if he wants to force his way into Borthwick’s thoughts more often, but his time down under has certainly showed what an asset he could be for England.