Injuries, bans, misconduct and cultural faux-pas. The trials and tribulations of Manu Tuilagi have been well documented over the last 5 years including this article by LWOR Editor Steve Kendall last year. Can England’s world-beater climb back to the upper echelons of world rugby?
Since the turn of the decade there have been few to challenge the raw talent of Manu Tuilagi. This was the man in mind when the term ‘crash ball’ was penned. It’s a shame one of the most commonly read headlines in rugby these days is yet another Tuilagi injury. If your unfamiliar with his work, or just enjoy rewatching it, check out his highlight video below.
Injuries And Discipline Keep Manu Tuilagi Down
Unfortunately, the 26-times-capped centre has had one of the worst runs of injuries since Jonny Wilkinson’s two year hiatus. When you add in his exclusion from the 2015 Rugby World Cup following an alleged assault on a police officer, and his recent ejection from the England camp due to ‘team cultural issues’, Tuilagi has done his international career few favours.
With his injury history alongside this recent discipline issue, many fans have lost patience with the England star.
There are more than a few supporters in social media groups claiming Tuilagi is not worth the room he is currently occupying in the Tigers salary cap. The recent injury that will sideline Tuilagi for up to 12 weeks has supplied more fuel to this fire. Yet again many a disgruntled fan has begun to suggest Leicester should drop the injury prone centre.
Tuilagi’s body seems to break down as soon as it is rebuilt, if this cycle is not broken, he may be facing retirement from elite sport.
Eddie Jones Compliments Unpopular Centre
England coach Eddie Jones praised Tuilagi merely days before ejecting the centre from camp.
In the media, Jones stated he’s worth effort, worth time, and worth a lot of care. In addition, Jones referenced England’s victory against New Zealand in 2012, praising Tuilagi for ‘demolishing the All Blacks’.
Will Jones still think Tuilagi is worth this praise after another lengthy injury? Jones will have to weigh up these factors now during the build up to the 2019 World Cup. After all, Jones is currently benefiting from the strongest talent pool available to an England coach for quite some time.
Tuilagi Should Follow Hartley And Etzebeth’s Example
While Jones will have to make his decision on Tuilagi, the man himself must now take ownership of the issue.
Tuilagi should look at his national captain Dylan Hartley and current Springbok skipper, Eben Etzebeth for inspiration. Both of whom have made special efforts to improve their temperament once given the national captain’s armband. While Tuilagi won’t receive a captaincy anytime soon, attempting to emulate Hartley’s and Etzebeth’s conduct could prevent further off-field antics. If Etzebeth can ignore a few cheap shots in the heat of the moment, Tuilagi can keep himself out of trouble.
The Chasing Pack
Tuilagi faces a race against time to find fitness and form before the 2019 Rugby World Cup in Japan.
With the recent emergence of Piers Francis, Harry Mallinder, Alex Lozowski, Joe Marchant and Joe Cokanasiga; Tuilagi has plenty of young prospects keen to become England regulars to overshadow. In particular, London Irish’s Cokanasiga may find himself filling Tuilagi’s shoes. Like Tuilagi, Cokanasiga has played his youth rugby on the wing and continues to do so with Irish.
But at 6ft 4″ and 17st 9lbs (112kg), if Jones believes he requires a Manu Tuilagi shaped option at centre, the young winger may find himself shifted inside to outside centre, much the same as a young Tuilagi was at Leicester, with great success.
“Main Photo Credit”