Six Nations: England's Luther Burrell focused on Italy, not returning Manu Tuilagi
Last Updated: 15/03/14 9:34am
Luther Burrell: Will start at centre in Rome
Luther Burrell has played down talk of a rivalry with returning centre Manu Tuiagi ahead of this weekend's Six Nations climax.
British and Irish Lions midfielder Tuilagi, 22, has returned to the international set-up after six months out with a torn pectoral muscle and will be on the bench in Italy on Saturday as England chase a win to keep their title hopes alive.
But Burrell, who plays at inside centre for Northampton, has been a revelation in the No 13 jersey for Triple Crown winners England throughout the tournament.
"Hopefully I can keep playing consistently well for the team. It's not about me and Manu," the 26-year-old Burrell said.
"I know when he comes on against Italy he's going to be a very dangerous player and will bring something to the game.
"Manu is a fantastic player but right now it is me and Billy so I have to focus on that. Who knows, I might go off and Manu might come on at 13.
"I'm not really looking too much at that because if I do it is probably going to affect my game. I just want to focus on what's happening at the moment."
Strengthening Burrell's claim to a permanent role in England's centre ahead of the home 2015 World Cup is that new-found ability to cover 12 and 13.
The arrival of cross-code star Sam Burgess later this year to the union ranks is also likely to further increase competition for places in Stuart Lancaster's squad.
"It's good that I've managed to develop at 13 because the fact I'm able to play both positions gives the coaches a headache when it comes to selection," Burrell said.
"I've had to learn quickly and obviously from a defensive point of view it's a lot different.
"You have got the quickest guys on the park running down that 13 channel so that transition has not been smooth.
"I have had to do a lot of homework and a lot of graft on the training park. Thankfully it has been working out."
Burrell could still turn his debut international campaign into a Six Nations Championship-winning season if England beat the Azzurri by a big score and Ireland lose their +49 points advantage in Paris in the late kick-off on Saturday.
Recent Anglo-Italian encounters point to a tight affair with England prevailing 19-15 in Rome two years ago and 18-11 in the return fixture at Twickenham last season.
Burrell expects another intense arm wrestle at Stadio Olimpico and said: "Italy are a huge threat to us. It's their own back yard and we are their biggest game, so we have to be mentally clued in for the job in hand."
"It's a big game and it's all about winning. We need to fully back up that emotional win against Wales.
"We are not really focusing on points, we are focusing on performance and getting the victory because ultimately that's what matters.
"We are under no illusion that we might have to score some points, but firstly it's about getting the performance in and the victory."