The Leicester centre had been one of the few on-field success stories of England's failed World Cup campaign - but he returned home from New Zealand in shame.
Tuilagi's decision to jump from a ferry into Auckland harbour, the day after England's World Cup quarter-final defeat to France, was the final scandal of a tournament dogged by controversy.
The 20-year-old then suffered a shattered eye-socket followed by a hamstring injury, which has restricted him to just five games for Leicester.
But Tuilagi is back in the England fold now - a new environment built by interim coach Stuart Lancaster which places pride and honour in the jersey at the heart of everything - with a shot at redemption.
"When you wear the red rose you go out and represent everyone in the country. That has been clarified," Tuilagi said.
"That comes from the experiences I had in New Zealand. After that you learn and change things.
"I've grown up fast in this environment. I feel I've learned a lot and with that experience I've grown up as a person as well as a player.
"I didn't realise before how much attention and scrutiny you get on you as an England rugby player. I realise it now. I realise I've got to make better decisions in future.
"The World Cup obviously wasn't great, but we've got the Six Nations now to focus on.
"I had a good World Cup personally. I didn't expect to play all those games but it feels like I'm almost starting again with England.
"I have to put in the work."
Asked whether he would jump off that ferry again, Tuilagi said: "No, let's leave it there."
Tuilagi will play for Leicester against Saracens on Sunday, one final run-out before making an anticipated international return for England against Wales.
"I definitely feel fit and ready to play. I've been out that long," said Tuilagi.
"I broke my cheekbone and eye socket in a head to cheek collision with Gloucester's Scott Lawson. I had an operation to put a titanium plate in because the bone was shattered. There was nothing there.
"I'm really excited to get back among new management and new players.
"Hopefully Sunday's game against Saracens will go well and I'll go from there."
Lancaster must decide whether to bring Tuilagi straight back into the starting line-up or, as is more likely, introduce him from the bench and start with an Owen Farrell-Brad Barritt centre partnership.
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