The powerhouse midfielder damaged his hamstring in the act of diving in to score in the corner at Twickenham during last November’s win over the world champion Springboks.
Sharks had suggested in recent weeks that a comeback for the 30-year-old wasn’t too far away, generating hopes that he would be back in action in time for the start of the Six Nations on February 5.
However, Eddie Jones reported on Tuesday that Tuilagi had suffered “a wee setback” that had resulted in his exclusion from the 36-strong England squad named for next week’s training camp in Brighton ahead of the opening match away to Scotland.
Jones said: “He [Tuilagi] has had a wee setback but we will just have to wait and see what he is up to. He needs to get some training, needs to play a few games. If we are 100 per cent optimistic we’d say yes (he will feature in the Six Nations). If we are realistic it’s probably about a 50/50.”
The England coach refused to elaborate any further on the situation and it was left to Sale boss Sanderson to shed further light on Tuilagi when appearing at his weekly media conference on Wednesday ahead of next Sunday’s Champions Cup at home to Ospreys.
“He is in good form,” quipped Sanderson when asked about Tuilagi and when might he be fit and available for England selection. “His coffee-making skills are A1. He won’t be right for this weekend, touch and go for Leicester. He will be fit at some point during the Six Nations period. When and if he joins up with the England squad will be determined by his physical fitness and his mental well-being to be able to do it.