England centre Manu Tuilagi says he is “fit and ready to go” if required for a resumption of his Test match career this summer.
Tuilagi will start his first game for more than eight months when Sale Sharks host fellow Gallagher Premiership play-off qualifiers Harlequins on Friday.
It comes after the 30-year-old made an impressive return off the bench in Sale’s stirring victory over Premiership leaders Bristol six days ago.
And with the Achilles injury that laid him low last September now firmly behind him, he could be part of England boss Eddie Jones’ plans for Twickenham appointments against the USA and Canada in July. Jones announces his squad next week.
It would also be no surprise if Tuilagi was summoned by British and Irish Lions head coach Warren Gatland in South Africa this summer, should the midfield be hit by injury.
Asked about England – Tuilagi has not played international rugby since March last year – he said: “I am fit and ready to go.
“If I get given the opportunity, it’s always an honour.
“Eddie has been pretty good at keeping in touch. But we haven’t set anything yet. We’ll see.”
Tuilagi’s immediate priority is playing his part in Sale’s bid for a first Premiership title since 2006.
After Quins and then a trip to Exeter in the final round of regular-season fixtures, a June 19 play-off date looms.
And Tuilagi, who went on regular hiking trips to the Peak District as part of his injury rehabilitation, is relishing what lies ahead.
“I am just blessed to be in this team and in this environment,” he added. “Just to get back out on the pitch with these boys was huge.
“It definitely made things easier while I was going through the rehab, watching the boys perform the way they have been performing.
“It motivates you to keep doing your bit. There is an individual responsibility to do your job for the team.
“To win it (Premiership title) would be the icing on the cake. To do it with this group of people would be so good.
“Winning is what I aim to do. That’s a given, that is why you are here in the first place.
“You are not here to just take part – you are here to win every day. That’s the motivation. That’s what makes you wake up and come in every day.”
Quins are next up, and unlike Exeter and Bristol, they have beaten Sale this season.
Tuilagi said: “We’ve been watching them and the way they play. They play some quality rugby.
“For us, it’s going to be a tough game. They are in the top four for a reason, so we will need to be on our ‘A’ game.”
And for Sale boss Alex Sanderson, having Tuilagi back and firing for the season’s final push is a priceless feeling.
“He has still potentially got his best rugby in him,” Sanderson said.
“He raises performance levels in others through engaging with boys, and through the relationships he has with the boys lifts them as a team.
“Add to that what he can do ball-in-hand to the opposition. It’s going to add isn’t it? I am very, very excited to see him back out there for him and for Sale.”