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Sunday Jan 10, 2016

Manu Tuilagi returns from injury to make big tackle on lock Courtney Lawes

Manu Tuilagi returns from injury to make big tackle on lock Courtney Lawes
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Manu Tuilagi made his long awaited return to action following a lengthy injury spell that included him being unavailable for the World Cup (disciplinary issues aside). He made this thumping tackle on his return, during Leicester Tiger’s 30-27 victory over Northampton Saints.

The former England back has been out of action for 15 months with a groin injury but made his return after 52 minutes of the Aviva Premiership clash at the weekend.

Timing is decent as new England coach Eddie Jones will name his Six Nations squad on Wednesday, however Tigers boss Richard Cokerill doesn’t feel Tuilagi is quite ready for Test rugby just yet.

“Manu will keep improving but the start of the Six Nations is unrealistic because we need to make sure he is 100 percent right,” Cockerill has told the BBC.

“As soon as he’s fit and good to go, he can go and play for England and do what he does but at this point he’s Leicester’s player, we’ve looked after him for a long time to get him fit, and I’m not going to push him through to play Test matches now.”

While Tuilagi himself said that he wasn’t available for the RWC last year due to injury, then coach Stuart Lancaster axed him due to his arrest for assaulting females police officers in April.

Tigers and indeed England fans will be pleased that he is back though, and will have fingers crossed that he not only stays injury free, but remains squeaky clean both on and off the pitch.

For some trademark huge hits from both players, see the Related Posts below this video

19 Comments

  • danknapp
    2:58 PM 18/01/2016

    I've not commented much on here recently, but what a thread. Nice work gents.

    Reply
  • 10stonenumber10
    7:07 AM 15/01/2016

    We can only go by what we see, you don't win a world cup on intentions, but with performances on the day. It isn't so much about position... Tuilagi won't be a fly half, but if Nonu can develop into a seamless 1st receiver, so can Manu. Some of the criticism is harsh, his set piece play in the premiership is exemplary, but compared to other potentially world class distributors England now have, he is "average". For a young guy, he has spent a fair amount of time on the sidelines recently, it might take a month or two to get up to 90%, but like any other player that final 10% could take a year Tuilagi should be treated like Nonu, SBW and Umaga, put him on the wing while he is still young and lightning quick. He has at least another 2 world cup's left in him to develop into a world class 12. If I was coach I would prefer to see him roaming off his wing and playing off 2 skilled centres. Use his hard running for the strengths it brings to a team rather than a heavy 12, light 13 and wide running wings

    Reply
  • stroudos
    7:27 AM 14/01/2016

    I agree. I think a lot of people see a big bugger and ASSUME that he can't have good hands or rugby intelligence. This side of Tuilagi's game is severely under-rated by most pundits and fans. Looks like it'll be a long wait before we see that Cipriani-Slade-Tuilagi combo, now that Cipriani's not even made Eddie Jones's initial squad - bit surprised by that, I thought Cips would be his kind of player. And Joe Simpson for that matter. But having said that I'm pretty happy with the rest of his selections.

    Reply
  • facepalm
    10:07 PM 13/01/2016

    There's a lot of criticism over Tuilagi's distribution, which I'm not sure I understand. His passing and offloading game are both excellent. It's not like he's playing 10, so what exactly is he lacking? A Cipriani-Tuilagi-Slade combo could be devastating.

    Reply
  • stroudos
    8:33 AM 13/01/2016

    Great discussion gents. :) 10st10, your "Swiss Army Knife" paragraph is a beauty, not just a vivid metaphor but a very accurate description of an effective back line too.

    Reply
  • 10stonenumber10
    6:29 AM 13/01/2016

    The only difference between a distributor and Tuilagi (or any player) is the 1,000s of hours they have put in off the pitch. If you can spot a gap or put throw an offload, you can spot a runner. Once the muscle memory is there, all you need to think about is where the ball is going rather than how you are going to get it there. In a game of percentages, that extra 0.5 second of thinking time is the different between a "good" and a "world class" player. Game management is vital at the top level. This is no disservice to Nonu, just my understanding of how he became as good as he is today. He was Carter and Smith's assistant until he was sharpened enough to make pressured decisions at 1st receiver. And again, it breaks down to the back line leader. Does your playmaker have the brains and balls to get the party started? Most teams play a game similar to draughts, one action, one destination, rinse & repeat. NZ (and 03 England) rugby is a game of chess, it isn't so much about the move as it is about the options a move creates 3 phases down the road. The back line should be like a swiss army knife in the 1st receiver's pocket. Physicality is a useful tool to have, but it needs to fold down into the handle so you can get a proper grip when using the others. What use is the corkscrew if the saw sticks out and cuts your hand?

    Reply
  • drg
    12:00 AM 13/01/2016

    Jimmy, apologies if you felt I was suggesting Nonu was average, as everyone so far has stated, Nonu is indeed far from average, but 10,10 just said Nonue was only unleashed when others allowed him to be. That is perhaps why I feel he was often the odd one out in the AB set up. AB's often have a 30 man squad with another 30 reserves all of who think quicker than the speed of light and are able to capitalise on a huge manner of opportunities... Nonu on the other hand sort of reminds me of a "Mongo likes candy"(Blazing saddles) type of player.... you don't want to get in his way, he'll smash you, he'll batter you he'll even out pace you, but he's more of a result of someone elses actions rather than his own.....again, not 100% true, but on a relative scale, compared to the other AB's this seems appropriate. Myself, Dan, Stroudos and 1010, have said the same few things on numerous occasions how NH rugby, particularly English rugby, will always struggle to be naturally great due to a couple of reasons: Firstly the coaching, majority of coaches up until perhaps these sorts of days, have been big, overweight guys who could never let go of the fact that in order to win a game you need to punch the opposition in the face... Secondly, it's not Englands 'natural' game... parks in summer time are packed with blokes kicking a round ball around... not tossing an egg about. NZ on the other hand, is all about the odd shaped ball! Anyway, Tuilagi is not too dissimilar to Nonu and as 1010 stated, it's how Tuilagi is used, but also NOT used, which will be a future test, especially as the guy grew up in the English rugby system, so one can only assume he was part of the "pass it to the big 'black' guy" game plan. (I'm aware he's an islander, it's just the aforementioned game plan is something I came up against on numerous occasions in my youth!!!)

    Reply
  • 10stonenumber10
    2:03 PM 12/01/2016

    just as well Tomkins has gone back to League!

    Reply
  • facepalm
    1:51 PM 12/01/2016

    There may be a case for some of those names you've listed, but please lets not throw Joel bloody Tomkins into the debate.

    Reply
  • 10stonenumber10
    11:35 AM 12/01/2016

    England cannot let enthusiasm overtake execution. In the early days, Nonu was only unleashed when Carter and Smith said it was OK to do so. Like SBW, Nonu is predictable, but it doesn't mean you can do a lot to stop it. If the defence is on point, NZ have the ability to attack from elsewhere... unlike England. Rugby isn't just about power... I'm going out on a limb here bringing in the Aussie back row, but when they were down a man they controlled things because they knew when NOT to use their assets. An Uppercut may be destructive, but it leaves you open to an even more devastating left hook... and the way things are now, a crash ball into 3 forwards will more than likely end in a turnover.

    Reply
  • jimmy23
    11:28 AM 12/01/2016

    Nonu may have never been the silkiest of players, even in the latter stages of his career. However, it doesn't change the fact that he and Smith were arguably one of the best partnerships we've seen in the game and you don't get 100+ caps in the All Blacks through being average! I think 10st10 summed it up by saying that England need to know how to use Tuilagi, as I think that's how NZ were able to get what they could from Nonu (occasional brain fart and all). Don't get me wrong, we've got some great centres in the ranks but I don't think he should be cast aside just yet. It is getting to the stage where he needs to start showing a bit more finesse though, if he could learn to offload like SBW then I think he'd be a great asset to have.

    Reply
  • 10stonenumber10
    11:25 AM 12/01/2016

    but case in point about Nonu.... Smith's criminal dummy. He caught Nonu flatfooted on auto-pilot expecting the pass he has seen 1,000 times before, baited the drift, and sliced him like a Thin Crust Pepperoni.

    Reply
  • 10stonenumber10
    11:22 AM 12/01/2016

    It all breaks down to player development. I can only speak from my own experiences here, so forgive the bias. "Back in the day" I was playing against kids twice my size (and talent) who had county and youth international caps, but couldn't pass off their left hand, and nothing off the boot. They ran over everything in sight during age grade without needing to give a pass, and coaches based the game plan around "just give it to so-and-so". If you haven't needed to pass until age 18, it is almost too late to learn. Go to any social touch rugby game, and look at how people pass. You can tell just by the setup of their hands whether passing is an ingrained natural movement... I picked up a ball aged 5, it took me 10 years to perfect an ambidextrous bullet-ball, and another 10 to get the timing right. In a panic situation, we take our go-to option. A lifetime of getting my ribs and face rearranged by large people meant my first reaction was to look for a runner, whereas someone who has been 16 stone since they were 13 will immediately drop the shoulder. Decision making is a massive part of it too. Hardly surprising that the only guy from my year at school still to be playing Premiership rugby graduated with 3 As at A level and Oxbridge offers. He wasn't the biggest, or the most decorated at youth level, but he worked harder and smarter than anyone else... and also scored about 10 interception tries while he was on Loan. I learned more from watching this guy play 1 game of 7s than 5 years of coaching from men who hung their boots up 10 years before the game turned pro. Nonu became the player he is because he had players like Carter (a former 12) and Conrad Smith around him leading by example. Tuilagi will never be a distributor, he is too far gone, the question is whether England can build a strong enough game plan around the centres to allow options?

    Reply
  • drg
    10:48 AM 12/01/2016

    I think 10st10 has it well summed up with his mention of Nonu. I dare say Nonu is a great player, but I've always felt he was the odd one out in an NZ set up. NZ to me has always been immensely strong players with silky skills.... Nonu is about as silky as a battering ram. Sure he's got talent and I'm sure in his time with NZ his skills have been far more developed, but I can't help but get the impression that he didn't quite have the same thing the others have. He was always getting pinged for stupid no arm tackles, he'd always get a brain fart somewhere along the line.. Tuilagi is not quite the same, however there are a lot of attributes that both him, Nonu and Bastareaud share....relatively quick and heavy..... Those skills will ALWAYS win when an opposition backline is stretched or half asleep. But they also fail miserably when an oppo backline is firing well! That being said, all 3 are great players and there are signs of vision etc from all of them, just not on the same scale as the rest of the worlds centres...

    Reply
  • 10stonenumber10
    12:08 AM 12/01/2016

    For Tuilagi to be a real International threat, he needs the players around him to bring him into the game properly. He does attract some unfair criticism at times, he is the go-to man of the back line, when in doubt, give him the ball... it is those kind of situations with lack of organisation that expose weak points and create mistakes. The issue England face is the same NZ did originally with Nonu. Tuilagi is a better player that he was in 2012, but he is still too much of a physical crash ball player. He hasn't got the vision or distribution of a traditional 12, with a few years he might become a more rounded footballer, but at the moment he is route one. England cannot create a game plan around a single player playing such a specialised role. England's other centre options are strong, but they do not play a Tuilagi role, so when he goes down the entire plan changes... there is no ready made like-for-like substitute (something I think Burgess was being moulded into) I am on the fence... some days he looks like a one trick pony, others he single handedly drives the team forwards when their back is against the wall.

    Reply
  • drg
    8:14 PM 11/01/2016

    I don't really have a stance for or against Tuilagi at the moment. The guy has talent somewhere...whether it's locked up at the moment or not is another matter... However 2012 was 3 years ago (not counting 2016 as we've just entered it..)... So he's got potential, but he's also got noticed and marked as a result...

    Reply
  • jimmy23
    6:11 PM 11/01/2016

    Manu Tuilagi average? Sorry, but seeing what he did to New Zealand in 2012 you can't say that he is an average player. Also, he hasn't played for over a year and a load of the current centres have come into prominence during his absence. Give him a chance to get back into form before comparing him to the current crop of centres. He's currently not the most dynamic of players, true. But he's young and I can think of player who was very similar to him in his youth; Ma'Nonu. Look at what Nonu became! Personally, I'd love to see Tuilagi with his power alongside someone with the finesse of Joseph or Daly in the centre. Would be a good mix and might encourage Tuilagi to develop his distribution.

    Reply
  • stroudos
    5:25 PM 11/01/2016

    I take your point, but it was a pretty impressive try-saving hit. Watching it live, you'd have put your mortgage on Lawes finishing from there.

    Reply
  • drg
    11:05 PM 10/01/2016

    "international second row at full tilt".... Yeh, and whilst we embellish things, Austin isn't a midget...

    Reply


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