|Weight||112kg (17st 8lb)|
The youngest of six brothers in the Samoan rugby dynasty to have played for Leicester Tigers, Manusamoa Tuilagi wasted no time in making an indelible impression by becoming both the Land Rover Discovery of the Season and the Rugby Players’ Association Young Player of the Year for 2010-11.
A debut try from a powerful and direct run against Wales at Twickenham in August 2011 confirmed his rapid emergence and prefaced a second try in the Ireland match at the Aviva Stadium that set England on their way to a 20-9 win three weeks later.
Manu then started all three Test matches in South Africa and the four QBE Internationals in November 2012 in which he scored two of England’s seven tries against Fiji, their only try against Australia and another against the All Blacks.
An ankle injury sustained in January ruled him out of contention for the opening match against Scotland in the 2013 RBS 6 Nations but he returned off the bench in the thrilling victory over Ireland in Dublin and scored his tenth Test try in the 23-13 win over France in February. He also made 57 metres, the most by an England player in the match, despite requiring 19 stitches around his left ear after the game and went on to win selection for the 2013 British & Irish Lions tour of Australia.
A shoulder injury sustained against Queensland Reds was a setback but he excelled in the 35-0 win over Melbourne Rebels and played off the bench in the final Test at Sydney when the Lions secured a 2-1 series win with a 41-16 victory. He was ruled out of England’s QBE Internationals in November by a torn pectoral muscle.
His approach to the New Zealand match in December 2012 typified that of England – fast, direct and unyielding. Manu intercepted a pass from Kieran Read and ran half the length of the field to score his ninth Test try and take England into a 30-14 lead after 62 minutes. He also helped to create his side’s other two touchdowns by giving the final pass for Brad Barritt’s and handing off Dan Carter and Richie McCaw for Chris Ashton to score.
He became England’s youngest RWC player at 20 years and 115 days against Argentina, being 15 days younger than Jonny Wilkinson, who set the previous record in 1999. Manu then scored his third Test try from a dynamic break in his second RWC appearance against Georgia and added a fourth touchdown against Romania six days later.
Manu began all five games in the 2011 tournament before suffering a hamstring injury and broken cheekbone while playing for the Tigers. He returned to England’s starting side against Wales at Twickenham in late February 2012 and ran in his fifth try in nine Tests when France were beaten 24-22 in Paris a fortnight later.
In his 20 Aviva Premiership matches in 2010-11, he scored seven tries, including two against both Newcastle Falcons and Sale Sharks, and was chosen for the England U20 squad before being elevated to the Saxons as an injury replacement for Mathew Tait, then of Sale Sharks. His aggregate of touchdowns was 13 in 46 Premiership games up to early January this year.
Debut tries are not new to him. He also ran in one in his first match for England Saxons in the 45-17 win over Italy. A second start followed against Ireland Wolfhounds at Ravenhill, Belfast but he missed the Churchill Cup in June 2011 after being given a five-week ban for punching Northampton’s Chris Ashton.
Born in the village of Fatausi-Fogapoa, Manu rose through the England age group ranks, playing for the U16 and U18 teams. Four of his older siblings, Fereti (Freddie), Henry, Alesana, known as Alex, and Anitelea, better known as Andy, have represented Samoa but Manu’s allegiance lies with England after ten years in this country.
His ambitions to don the Red Rose jersey in a full international appeared to be dashed when the Home Office ruled he would not be allowed to stay in the UK, having arrived on a six-month holiday visa and stayed on since. He faced the threat of deportation but a campaign on his behalf prompted a successful appeal.
The Tigers had considered the option of letting him leave the country to win caps for Samoa but Manu insisted he wanted to play for England. His reprieve was made possible by his club, the RFU and three local MPs, Edward Garnier, Keith Vaz and Andrew Robathan, supported by a local media and Facebook campaign.
Going back, Manu scored a try at Twickenham for John Cleveland College, Hinckley, who beat Hampton School in the Daily Mail U18 Vase final four years ago. Already, he has shown his physical prowess, a vivid “show and go”, and a subtle rugby brain since being absorbed into the Leicester Tigers Academy system.
His Premiership debut was off the bench against Northampton Saints in September 2010 but he had appeared against the Classic All Blacks in 2008 and qualified for England after living in the country for more than the stipulated three years.
50 points – 10T
2011 W, I World Cup - Arg, G, R, S, F 2012 W, F, I, SA (1,2,3) Fj, A, SA, NZ 2013 I(R), F, It, W
Last updated: January 15, 2014