- Danny Care excited by prospect of Manu Tuilagi on the wing
- "He's one of the best players in the world" – England scrum half Care
Danny Care has confidence that “unbelievable” Manu Tuilagi will be a big hit in his new Test role on the right wing against New Zealand in Dunedin on Saturday.
Tuilagi has made all of his 23 England appearances at centre but wil start the second Test with No.14 on his back in Stuart Lancaster’s overhauled backline – full back Mike Brown is the only player retained in the same position.
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Harlequins schemer Care, who returns to the starting line-up after a shoulder injury, rates Tuilagi as one of the finest rugby players on the planet and said his 115kg bulk will have a sizeable impact on the game wherever he starts from.
“I’d definitely have him down as one of the best players in the world; he’s got that X-factor in terms of if you give him the ball, he’ll do something,” said the 27-year-old. “He’s unbelievably powerful but also very quick and very fit. You often don’t get a rounded player like that but he has got everything you need to play international rugby at wing or centre.
“Wherever we have him, he’ll cause some problems – I’d love to have his physical attributes. But the way he applies them is very clever as well. Obviously now he’s been given the chance on the wing, I’m sure he’ll do well.”
After a string of creditable performances in the gut-wrenching first Test defeat at Eden Park, England revert back to established RBS 6 Nations combinations in the back division. Care partners fly half Owen Farrell at half back and Billy Twelvetrees and Luther Burrell are reunited in the centres, with Marland Yarde switching wings to accommodate Tuilagi.
With Jonny May and Kyle Eastmond among those replaced in the match-day 23, the backs have explosive, ball-carrying ability in abundance, critical for the gainline battle against the All Blacks.
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However, with Care in the team to inject tempo with sharp decision-making and speed across the ground, there is no danger of Lancaster's side altering their play-quick mindset at the Forsyth Barr Stadium.
New Zealand have only lost one of their last 36 Tests – the record defeat at Twickenham in 2012 is the only blemish – and Care says England can only hope to achieve another victory by imposing their own strengths on the formidable hosts.
“We want to play an attacking game with a fast tempo and the way to do that is to get over the gainline,” he said. “The best way to achieve that is to have the backs helping out the forwards so the lads up front aren’t doing all the grunt.
“We want to run teams around. We back ourselves to play at high tempo but that is just one string to our bow. Our defensive game is something we pride ourselves on as well. We’ll go out on Saturday and give it a good crack.”
Care was arguably in the form of his life in the RBS 6 Nations, scoring tries that lifted the whole of Twickenham to its feet in the victories over Ireland and Wales and poaching drop-goals in Paris and Edinburgh.
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Had Care not injured his shoulder – attempting a grubber kick in training – he would have equalled his longest run of consecutive starts in the No.9 shirt (six) after adding real consistency and game management to his obvious attacking ability.
Back in the country where he made his Test debut in 2008 and scored his first Test try a week later, the former Leeds man feels the complete backing of Lancaster and clarity of his role is the root of his form. And, with pertinence to the attitude England will display tomorrow against the All Blacks, Care added his style of play means he will never be left contemplating what might have been.
“You want to have the coaches' trust and they’ve given me that in abundance,” he said. “They’ve really backed the way I play and the gameplan is similar to what we have at Quins – it’s all about taking opportunities and backing yourself, having a go without dying wondering. That’s how I like to play the game.
“It was my first cap in New Zealand six years ago – it’s mad how long ago that feels. It’s a different team now and it feels like we are more established. There are some very exciting youngsters and some older heads. It scares me to think I might be one of those. It’s a fantastic squad that’s been put together by fantastic coaches and we’re loving every minute out here.”