Eddie Jones is adamant Manu Tuilagi can play a role in England's RBS 6 Nations clash with Wales on March 12.
Tuilagi made a successful comeback from a hamstring strain in Leicester's defeat by Harlequins on Friday night with Jones watching from the stands at Twickenham Stoop. The explosive 24-year-old ended 15 months out with a groin problem last month before he was struck by his latest injury setback, casting his participation in the Six Nations in grave doubt.
Leicester director of rugby Richard Cockerill insists England's most effective ball carrier is not ready to end his 20-month absence from the Test arena, but Jones believes otherwise.
When asked if the showdown with Wales is feasible for his international return, Jones replied: "Definitely. I'll have to have that conversation with the head coach, but that's the planning. We'd like to look at that. I was pleased to watch him play."
Jones views Tuilagi exclusively as an inside centre and is unwilling to pick him at 13, the position he has filled for the overwhelming majority of his career. Owen Farrell has been selected in the number 12 jersey for the victories over Scotland and Italy that have launched the post-Stuart Lancaster era, but once Tuilagi is deemed ready he will start.
"I think inside centre is his best position. He's not a 13. That's what I know he's not. He's definitely a 12. He can carry the ball across the gain line," Jones said. "He threw a beautiful left to right pass on Friday night. And then he threw a terrible right to left, so maybe he's left handed!
"But he's got the ability to catch and pass. I haven't seen him kick but there's no reason he can't learn to kick. We have a reasonable kicking mentor here (Jonny Wilkinson). He's got all the attributes to be an outstanding 12."
The uncapped Ollie Devoto has been ruled out of Saturday's showdown with Ireland with concussion, resulting in Luther Burrell's promotion into the training squad for the first time since he was axed in the final cull before the World Cup.
If England opt for a five-three split between forwards and backs on the bench, Burrell will compete with Sam Hill and Elliot Daly for a spot among the 23.
"The reason we left Luther out in the first place was because he wasn't good enough to be in the squad. He had flaws in his game and was making a lot of mistakes," Jones said. "When I left him out of the squad I spoke to him briefly and said there were certain things he had to look to do.
"I think he's done that brilliantly and looks like he's getting better every day. That's the sort of player we want in the squad. He's definitely in contention for Ireland. We need an inside back to cover Ollie's spot.
"We've got Sam Hill and we have experimented with Elliot Daly at 12. He obviously gives us good cover in that he could potentially play 12, 13 and 15 and left wing."
England are still waiting for an update on the dislocated shoulder sustained by Josh Beaumont on club duty for Sale, but suspect his Six Nations is over.