Having been ruled out of the rest of the Aviva Premiership season for Leicester Tigers due to an ongoing groin injury, the powerful centre hasn’t played a competitive game of rugby since October 2014 and hasn’t played for England since June. Although expected to be fit for England’s world cup warm-ups, with the international centre position’s so hotly contested, will Stuart Lancaster still want Tuilagi?
The Samoan-born battering ram joined Leicester Tigers in 2010, and since then has played 77 matches amassing 24 tries.
He duly received his England call up during the warm-up matches for the last Rugby World Cup back in 2011, where he scored tries in victories over Wales and Ireland, going on to be recognised as one of the standout players for his country in a largely underwhelming trophy campaign.
Now with 11 tries in 25 caps, Tuilagi will meet with stiff competition as he fights for his place in Lancaster’s team.
Traditionally an outside centre for club and country, the 6″1′ and 112kg colossus will have to prove he is more of an asset than the in-form Bath midfielder Jonathan Joseph, if he wants the white 13 shirt come September.
Joseph played every match for England through their impressive Six Nations efforts this year, ending the tournament as top try scorer and presenting no clear reason for omission this summer, therefore Tuilagi will have to do something special to oust Joseph from the team.
Luther Burrell was Lancaster’s favoured inside centre through the competition, and although a solid player, perhaps this is where Tuilagi should aim his sights.
South African star Bryan Habana believes that would be the right move, saying, “The combination of Ford, Joseph and Tuilagi would be impressive.”
He went on to say that, “Jonathan Joseph has shown that his game has improved immensely. He has really grown into that position at Bath and the presence that Luther Burrell brings is good, and Manu Tuilagi is hard to leave out.”
That last point is really the crux of the issue – despite Burrell and Joseph both being world class players, and with Brad Barritt, Kyle Eastmond and Billy Twelvetrees in the wings the competition is truly elite, but can Lancaster really afford to leave Tuilagi out?
After all, the presence of the Tigers’ centre was a huge factor in England’s record 38-21 win over New Zealand at Twickenham in 2012. Scoring a try himself and setting up two others, his performance in the match catapulted his profile within world rugby.
The video below (apologies for some of the bad language) shows some of Manu Tuilagi’s best moments. What do you think: should Tuilagi be in the England squad? And if so, which position?
Check the Related Posts for some more of Tuilagi’s powerful play
Note: swearing in video. no offence intended