In something of a surprise, heavyweight centre, Manu Tuilagi was included in the Eddie Jones England training camp squad for this weekend.
Afterwards he explained his reasoning –
Eddie Jones has labelled Manu Tuilagi as the only player at his disposal able to “demolish the All Blacks” after seizing the opportunity to call the fit-again centre back into the England frame.
Tuilagi has not played since January following a knee injury – the latest in a long line of fitness problems – but was among the 37-man squad called into this weekend’s camp. The 26-year-old has made one appearance under Jones – off the bench against Wales during the 2016 Six Nations – but the head coach has not forgotten Tuilagi’s bulldozing performance in England’s victory over New Zealand in 2012. Tuilagi scored one try and set up two inside eight minutes as England romped to a 38-21 win at Twickenham.
Jones revealed he met with Tuilagi in Leicester before England’s two-Test tour victory over Argentina and while the head coach said the centre is “a hell of a long way from Test rugby”, he intends to unleash him during the autumn internationals against Argentina, Australia and Samoa if his rehabilitation continues to progress.
“I know he can demolish the All Blacks, so he’s worth time, he’s worth effort and worth a lot of care,” said Jones. “He’s just got to get fit and healthy. The more he works hard and diligently, the more chance he has of playing. Everything looks pretty positive so we’ve just got to pray that this positivity keeps going and he has a period where he is injury-free and can show what he is capable of. If his motivation and desire’s right, he can be an outstanding player for us and add to the depth of the squad.”
Asked if the British & Irish Lions’s second Test victory over the All Blacks put the seven England players involved on the same level as Tuilagi, Jones said: “I don’t think anyone’s done it with the Lions … No one has ripped them apart – apart from Manu.”
Only time will tell if Eddie is right – it may well be worth the wait!