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Cockerill happy he is not Stuart Lancaster

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Article Published: Monday 20 February 2012

Leicester Tigers Director of Rugby Richard Cockerill says that he is glad he does not have to deal with the selection dilemma that England coach Stuart Lancaster faces.

Lancaster faces some tough decisions this week after England fly half and England centre Manu Tuilagi staked claims for Test recalls in their 20-19 win over Saracens.

England face Wales in the Six Nations at Twickenham on Saturday with fly-half/centre Flood and powerful midfielder Tuilagi looking to make their first appearances of the tournament after knee and hamstring injuries respectively meant they missed the wins away to Scotland and Italy.

The pair were both in good form as Leicester gained a measure of revenge for their Premiership playoff final defeat by Saracens in May, albeit the champions were without 10 players because of England duty as they lost at home for the first time since October 2010.

Interim coach Lancaster must now decide whether to change a winning England team and that could mean dropping the likes of Saracens No 10 Charlie Hodgson and club-mate Brad Barritt if Flood and Tuilagi are to get back in.

Tuilagi may also have to convince the England management he's now a more mature player than the one who jumped off an Auckland ferry to set the seal on the squad's wretched World Cup campaign in New Zealand.

But former international Cockerill believes Tuilagi's power could be useful against a Wales side who, like England, have won their first two Six Nations matches but lead the table on points difference.

"Manu had a long lay-off with injury but he's now played two 80 minutes and was still charging for the line at the end, while Floody had a torrid time in last week's disappointing defeat at Exeter and showed his quality with those (four) penalties," Cockerill said.

"England have done well with the guys they have, so how they may or may not fit in those two is, happily, not my problem.

"Manu is a very good lad, very professional. But he's also 20. You make wrong calls when you are growing up and you learn from them. Manu is a lad growing up who is also a very exciting player."

Victory was secured by Tigers captain Geordan Murphy's last-ditch drop goal and Cockerill said it was fitting the Ireland international had scored the winning points having rallied the side after last week's 19-11 loss to Exeter.

"I was desperate for the lads to go for the drop - probably about 14 times before Geordan finally delivered. And I think it was apt that he should score the winner.

"It was Geordan who sat the players down in midweek and told them what is expected of Leicester players after last week's performance.

"He then made the call to take the drop-goal and did what all great Leicester players do, he led from the front."

Saracens coach Mark McCall said: "It was a tight, very close game as we tend to have against Leicester. I remember when we won a similar game at Welford Road because Billy Twelvetrees missed a last-gasp penalty.

"There were shades there also of last May's play-off final against Leicester at Twickenham, only this time they got the crucial score with the last kick.

"My own sense of disappointment concerns the fact that we were on their line 30 seconds from time and we needed to be more clever in that sort of situation."

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