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Manu surprised by Saxons selection

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Manu Tuilagi says he was surprised to receive a call-up by England Saxons for Saturday's game against Italy A at Sixways Stadium (3.15pm).

Tuilagi was named in the national Under 20 squad in July, but was promoted to the Saxons group as an injury replacement for Mathew Tait.

Now he has been named in the starting XV which includes Leicester Tigers teammate Billy Twelvetrees and British & Irish Lions Ugo Monye and Lee Mears.

Tuilagi, who is the sixth Tuilagi brother to have links with Tigers, said: “Back in the summer I was just looking to get a start in the Leicester first team and that’s quite hard because you’ve got guys like Dan Hipkiss, my brother [Alesana] on the wing, Anthony Allen at 12, and so on all around you.

“But because of some injuries I’ve got an opportunity to come on, then get some starts and I’ve started the last five games now. It’s a big step up from the Leicester academy and the standard is very high in the Aviva Premiership and in the Heineken Cup. We’ve played the likes of the Scarlets and Exeter away from home recently and they’re all tough games.

“Being called up to the England Saxons was a surprise too. It was a real bonus to get a call from [head coach] Stuart Lancaster in the first place and now I’m starting so I’m just trying to keep my cool. For me it’s a massive step from the academy to the first team and then from Leicester to the Saxons.”

Tuilagi’s brothers have played internationally for Samoa but the 19-year-old centre qualifies for England by residency.

“I was born in Samoa but all my rugby has been learned in England and Leicester have been great for me every step of the way,” he said. “You don’t get anything free and easy there.

“It [the visa appeal] went on for a long time but I didn’t let it affect my rugby. I just tried to keep playing and not thinking about it. It all worked out well in the end.”