Manu Tuilagi and Denny Solomona Actions Place England Future in Doubt

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England Training Session
AUCKLAND, NEW ZEALAND - JUNE 05: Manu Tuilagi, the England centre, pulls a weights sled during the England training session held at Takapuna Rugby Club on June 5, 2014 in Auckland, New Zealand. (Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)

Manu Tuilagi and Denny Solomona have shunned the chance to prove they are worthy to be a part of the England Rugby squad, with reports of an incident that jeopardizes each players future.

Solomona appears to be squandering a golden opportunity, whilst Tuilagi’s recklessness has closed a door that should never have been re-opened (in this reporter’s mind).

The pair have been sent home from England’s summer training camp by head coach Eddie Jones for team culture reasons. Speculation is rife but it is believed to be alcohol related. The players, whilst not breaking any curfews, ventured out once the group had finished dinner and it has been reported they returned ‘early Monday morning drunk’.

The Sale cross-code winger Solomona was included in the squad after impressing on the summer tour to Argentina. Tuilagi, who is yet to start an international match under current head coach Eddie Jones, was given a chance to ‘prove his fitness and ability’ after recovering from injury. Now, both have been ejected from the squad and their futures are in question.

Manu Tuilagi’s Actions Appear to Haunt Him

Tuilagi has had an indifferent relationship with England to say the least. His talent undeniable but so is his ignorant conduct. This latest incident however appears to spell the end on a promise never fulfilled.

An undoubted destructive athlete who is still living off the reputation he first enhanced as a young powerhouse at Leicester Tigers, he earned England recognition before becoming a key member of the 2011 Rugby World Cup squad(see main picture) in New Zealand.

His irresponsible nature was first seen at that tournament when he jumped off a boat into the Auckland harbour. He was reprimanded by the English authorities before Stuart Lancaster replaced Martin Johnson  as head coach with an onus on changing the team’s culture. To that point, Tuilagi was omitted by Lancaster for the 2015 World Cup, after being convicted of assault – in what would be that head coach’s final bow as England boss.

New ‘Gaffer’ Jones Looked at Other Options

Jones’ arrival sparked new excitement about England and the Australian was keen to point out the undeniable strength in depth. He has since proved just how rich a rugby nation England are. Centre especially, is an area of the squad where Jones has earmarked real potential.

Jonathan Joseph has become a real favourite at number 13. With his ability to break the line and defensive reliability, he has been a star on the rise. Unfit, Tuilagi was unable to gain any starts for England in nearly 24 months.

Whilst the competition is fierce, Tuilagi has only himself to blame on the pitch as well as off it.

Manu Tuilagi Many Abilities Challenged Now by Others

Since arriving as a young Pacific Islander, Tuilagi has struggled to develop his game further. Naive in thinking that his power was sufficient enough in a one dimensional game, he has been static (while missing games due to injury). He lacks the dexterity with his hands that many of the of his compatriots possess. If an opposition defender can stop his supply from source, to not allow Tuilagi room to get going, he becomes ‘half the player’.

Oppositions have become wise to this and the Tuilagi who went on the British and Irish Lions tour of 2013, looks to be a distant memory. Far from the one invited back into the current England set-up–and who appears to have jeopardized that.

Ben Te’o has impressed as an impact player and he went on this summer’s Lions tour to New Zealand. In addition,  the likes of Henry Slade at Exeter and Alex Lozowski of Saracens have broadcasted their versatility across the back line, which further challenges Tuilagi.

Jones is also known to think highly of young Harlequins centre Joe Marchant. The 21-year-old has become a regular inclusion in Jones’ international squads. It seems just a matter of time before he earns recognition. Little space therefore for a fit Tuilagi, as much as for his external issues.

Denny Solomona Outcome – A Slap on the Wrists?

The Sale winger, as irresponsible as he’s been, may have more credit in the bank when it comes to a second chance. It’s no secret Jones is an admirer of the former rugby league man and Solomona proved his ability with a match winning try against Argentina just a few months ago.

Solomona finished in the upper echelons on the Aviva Premiership try scoring charts last season. A good return however, Jones has proved that is no guarantee of England opportunities. Even the electric Semesa Rokoduguni looks to be surplus to what the England head coach is looking for. That highlights just how high standards are in 2017.

Solomona is in battle with the likes of Elliot Daly, Anthony Watson and Jack Nowell. All of whom represented the Lions this summer. The former Castleford man looks to have all the tools to force his way into that group but actions this weekend might have clouded those views.

Politics will now play a role in whether Solomona is given another chance with England. Last Word on Rugby must state that it is ‘yet to be made completely public’ just how the incident involving him and Tuilagi played out. Punishment could be a slap on the wrist….at best.

Where to for Eddie Jones’ England Squad Culture?

Jones was believed to have been furious at the pairs conduct, before sending them away from the training camp. But it’s no secret, Jones is not black and white when it comes to conduct [like his predecessor Lancaster may have been].

Jones chose a man in Dylan Hartley who has accrued ‘over a years worth’ of suspensions as his captain. He continues to back the hooker. It’s a clear sign that; whilst he understands the need for a harmonious team culture, he is also a thoroughbred winner.

If he feels Solomona – or far less likely Tuilagi – increases England’s chances of success, he will have no issues picking one or both of them for future international squads. The manager has the final say: in punishment, and/or in redemption.

This latest incident is a major set back for the two individuals. It is not one for England Rugby or their head coach. England are thriving, ranked number two in the world and growing. The absence of two players on the periphery of the squad who should have been training harder than others – rather than exercising their elbows – is no huge loss.

And one Jones will lose little sleep over.

“Main photo credit”
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