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Unquestioning Tuilagi 'playing his own game'

30 September 2011

  • Understated England centre Manu Tuilagi on his preparations for Scotland
  • I don’t ask questions on the pitch, I just do it says 20-year-old
England centre Manu Tuilagi in action against Romania at Rugby World Cup 2011

Photo: Getty Images

It would be fair to say Manu Tuilagi’s manner and demeanour off the field is a complete contrast to that on it, with the laidback centre having plundered four tries in five Tests with a brutal efficiency not seen in England’s midfield for some time.

The Samoa-born powerhouse has become integral to Martin Johnson’s team at this world cup in a short space of time – after being selected to start against Scotland in the Pool B decider tomorrow he is one of only five players to start all four pool games.

But it should not be forgotten that the 20-year-old – yet to be beaten in five internationals – is the youngest to represent England at a world cup, edging out Jonny Wilkinson of 1999 by 15 days when he started against Argentina.

Speaking about preparations for the clash with Andy Robinson’s side, Manu trotted out the old sporting adage of ‘playing his own game’ but with him you get the sense he means it more than most. For the Leicester Tigers centre the pitch is the same, the ball is the same and he will go about his business of running hard and tackling hard regardless of who the 15 opposition players are.

"I’m not really sure if Scotland will have any special plans for me, I’ll just go out play my normal game,” he said.

"We’ve just got to worry about ourselves and not worry about Scotland’s game too much. Obviously you study your opponent and work out how you’re going to beat him but you’ve got to play your own game and play to your strengths.

"In terms of physicality, all the games have been pretty much the same – the Pumas, Georgia and Romania were all pretty physical out there. Scotland are going to be very direct and I think their loss against Argentina is going to make them very hard to beat as they need this win, but so do we."

England centre Manu Tuilagi (L) celebrates with try-scorer Ben Youngs against Argentina

Photo: Getty Images

Asked who has impressed him for Scotland Tuilagi replied ‘I’m not sure’ and ‘all of them’ before finally coming up with the Lamont brothers. But it is not delivered with a hint of arrogance, more the sense that he would prepare and play the same way regardless of the opposition. New Zealand or Scotland, it wouldn’t matter.

A couple of other parts of the interview support this, with Tuilagi giving his thoughts on a reportedly fiery training session at Welford Road as his club side Leicester try to rouse themselves from an early season slump.

He said: "It’s not a surprise if we have that sort of session, we always have those kind of sessions.

"It involves a five minute meeting, then get out there and smash each other – I love it.

"In training you just tackle whatever is in front of you, it doesn’t really matter."

Leicester Tigers centre Manu Tuilagi at an England training session at Rugby World Cup 2011

Photo: Getty Images

Last season’s Aviva Premiership young player of the season has also been seen defending at 10, 12 and 13 in the opening world cup games and says he simply does what he’s told on the pitch, deferring to the experience of Rugby World Cup winners Jonny Wilkinson and Mike Tindall.

"Mike has a lot of experience and is a good player, he helps me out with my defence," he added. "If Floody or Wilko or Mike want to change positions I’ll just do it, you don’t really ask questions when you’re on the pitch, you just do it.

"I feel lucky to be playing for Leicester and England and I never thought about making the step up to international rugby. I just play and do what’s now and focus game by game. I wouldn’t say it’s confidence, I’m just happy to be here."