- In-form centre wants England to take opportunities
- Execution of utmost importance in title hunt
Having scored ten tries in 20 games for England, centre Manu Tuilagi will be at the forefront of the team’s attacking strategy on Saturday and is undoubtedly one of the key players Wales will be aiming to keep under control.
The 17-stone Leicester Tiger has been named in the centres alongside Brad Barritt for Saturday’s Grand Slam decider in Cardiff. Since Stuart Lancaster took the reins of this current England crop, Tuilagi has been the weapon of choice in the back line, providing a physical presence in both attack and defence.
The 21-year-old helped England to an historic win over New Zealand in December, scoring one try and setting up two others, and in this year’s RBS 6 Nations he scored a crucial runaway try against France. In that match he also carried seven times and got across the advantage line with five (67 per cent), made two clean breaks and one half break, showing that outside of scoring tries he helps spearhead the team’s attack.
England head into the match on Saturday as the only unbeaten side left in the competition and although Wales can still mathematically win it, Tuilagi says it would be a huge achievement for him personally to lift the trophy if England take victory.
“It would be amazing if we win this game,” he said. “You grow up watching this competition, I remember when I was back in Samoa watching it. When you think back from then to now, you are now playing in it, it’s a dream and if we win it will be amazing.”
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While Tuilagi has been a potent attacking force for England, the team have only scored one try in their last three games. Missed opportunities during the team’s 18-11 win over Italy have put them under pressure to convert more come Saturday, and Tuilagi says that looking back over the footage was frustrating but made the team realise they need to execute against Wales.
“The last game was very frustrating. I watched it again and it was more frustrating watching it back than playing it. We didn’t finish our opportunities in the first half and we let Italy stay in the game and that made it very difficult for us.
“The last game showed if you don’t take opportunities you might be in trouble. Hopefully we get some opportunities this week and we have to take them as the last game is winner takes all.”
In the centres Barritt and Tuilagi will line up opposite Jamie Roberts and Jonathan Davies in what is one of the most anticipated physical match-ups of the competition. Tuilagi has already faced big physical contests this year including against France’s 17-stone centre Mathieu Bastareaud, but he believes the Welsh duo of Roberts and Davies will be a big test.
“He (Jamie Roberts) is a quality player and big guy, very physical. It will be a massive challenge again. Jamie Roberts and Davies are big midfielders so it’s going to be another test as a player and to see where you stand.”