- Manu Tuilagi talks about his first Twickenham try for John Cleveland College
- "That's still one of my favourite rugby memories" – England and Lions centre
Everyone remembers their first Twickenham try and Manu Tuilagi is no different, recalling his match-winning score for John Cleveland College in 2009 with unadulterated glee.
The fresh-faced, but already physically imposing, 17 year-old collected a cross-field kick and scooted over to win the Under 18 Vase of the RFU’s nationwide schools competition – rebranded this season as the NatWest Schools Cup.
And while the young man from Samoa was already showcasing his precocious talent with a series of bruising performances for the Leicester Tigers Academy and England Under 18, winning a trophy with his closest friends remains a cherished memory.
Photo: Getty Images
“There are a lot of good memories playing for John Cleveland College, one of my favourites was playing at Twickenham Stadium,” said the 2013 British and Irish Lion, now aged 22.
“I was very excited to go to Twickenham; we went the night before and stayed in a hotel nearby. It was awesome and that moment you know you’re going to be playing at the home of rugby is special.
“I remember Oakesy [Ryan Oakes] was our fly half at the time and we were a few points down, he put over a cross-field kick and I caught it on one bounce and went in under the posts to win the game. That’s still one of my favourite rugby memories.
“It’s very special to play with your mates and the most important thing is that you enjoy it. We all still keep in touch now on Facebook and Twitter and catch up when we can.”
With more than 1000 schools up and down the country starting their NatWest Schools Cup campaign on Wednesday, Tuilagi was back at his old school in Hinckley to have a look at the potential of their 2013 teams.
Photo: Getty Images
After taking RFUtv round his old school haunts and meeting some of his teachers – RFUtv features his school tour later this week – the 22-Test England centre got stuck into a training session with the Under 15 and Under 18 sides.
John Cleveland College has a rich rugby heritage – counting four Lions in Tuilagi, Ollie Smith, Graham Rowntree and Dean Richards among their alumni – but after seeing the youngsters close up has Tuilagi spotted any future stars?
“There are loads of them, they’re all in Hinckley,” Tuilagi grinned. “The kids are great, they look good and this year will hopefully be a good year for them.
“When I was running round here training on rainy days I never thought I would be playing for Leicester, England and the Lions. It’s a massive achievement for me and an honour.”
Get your school's match streamed live on RFU.com
More than 58,000 watched the schools cup semi finals and finals streamed live on RFU.com last season. This year streaming starts early – one match from the NatWest Schools Cup U18 fixtures from the week commencing September 30 will be shown live on RFU.com.
Which match? You decide. Vote for your school now on RFU.com, the deadline is noon on Friday, September 27.