THE presence of powerhouse Manu Tuilagi in midfield has not only given Six Nations rivals the jitters but has transformed England with a surge of confidence, according to the centre's old boss.

The 27-year-old, who has been strongly linked with a move from Leicester to Racing 92 on a bumper deal after the World Cup, will wear 12 against Wales in tomorrow's crunch clash in Cardiff (kick-off 4.45pm).

Tuilagi has been ravaged by injuries but made his first Six Nations start since 2013 against Ireland on opening weekend.

The Lions back put in some trademark big defensive hits and dynamic carries in the shock win in Dublin and followed up against France at Twickenham.

Richard Cockerill, his former boss at Welford Road who gave him his professional debut, believes the Samoa-born centre's presence in midfield is not only giving opponents nightmares but freeing up Eddie Jones' strike runners.

"Manu fit and on form is a very difficult player to manage, and it's not only managing him because if you mark him then there is someone else like Henry Slade, Jonny May, Elliot Daly that are freed up outside," said the Edinburgh boss.

"Manu is a threat all-round and when he is conditioned well, and it looks like he is at the moment, then he is a difficult man to cope with.

"When you've got the calibre of Manu in the side, the opposition go 'jeepers' when you announce the team. They know he is going to be a tough man to deal with but it also brings confidence to his own team.

"Having him there creates something out of nothing because he has such power and even if you are static in attack then he has such physical attributes that he can give go-forward from a standing start.

"It's good to see him playing well and let's hope he stays fit and continues what he is doing."

Cockerill's assessment was backed up by England captain and fly-half Owen Farrell.

"Manu's someone you look at before you go out for a game and see that big massive smile on his face knowing he's going to be unbelievably physical," said the Saracens playmaker.

"That makes you excited to go out there and play with him."

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Former hooker Cockerill won 27 caps and faced Wales twice – in the 60-26 destruction at Twickenham in 1998 and then when denied a Grand Slam in the remarkable Wembley clash the following year.

The ex-Tiger, who won the second of his Heineken Cups in Cardiff, says this key title clash is a hard one to call.

"It's a really tough one because England are playing well and have done a good job in the first two games but Wales in Cardiff are a tough team that you wouldn't bet against," he said.

"This is what the Six Nations is about. It's a crunch game between two unbeaten teams.

"If England have thoughts of winning the World Cup then they have to win games like this, the same goes for Wales if they are genuine contenders. I am sure Gats will have them well-prepared and ready to go."