England fans took to Twitter after England’s win over Ireland in Dublin on Saturday to show their delight at the return of Manu Tuilagi. The Leicester centre was making his first start in an England shirt since 2014, and there were many questions waiting to be answered.
Fans and pundits were speculating how the 27-year-old would fare playing alongside Henry Slade in addition to the slight positional change of moving to inside centre from his usual position of outside centre for the Tigers.
Many lingering questions seemed to be answered within one of the first exchanges of the match as the powerful centre received a long lineout throw from Jamie George, and crashed into Ireland’s Josh van der Flier. This not only created the platform for England’s blistering start to the match, whereby they scored fairly soon after, but set the tone for Tuilagi’s performance.
The number 12 was an immense physical presence in both attack and defence, meaning the Irish consistently struggled to make ground. The way he charged out of the line in the second half and careered into his opposite man Bundee Aki epitomised his performance and highlighted what he can bring to Eddie Jones’ side.
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The partnership with Slade was also another encouraging factor for the England side, as both players bring something different to the team. Tuilagi was not excessively used by Owen Farrell, as he also served as a decoy to draw in Irish defenders and create space for the likes of Slade and Elliot Daly outside him.
Of course, his performances and ability have rarely been questioned during his absence from the national set-up, but it has been persistent injuries and off-field misdemeanours that have curtailed his progress. Many fans will be hoping that he can put those problems behind him, as Saturday was a clear indication of what the future will be like with him in the squad.
This is what the fans had to say:
Strongly suspect that in Farrell, Tuilagi and Slade England have stumbled upon their World Cup starting midfield.
— Sam Peters (@Sam_sportsnews) February 2, 2019
Welcome back Manu Tuilagi. What a start. #IreVEng
— Adam (@daddancer1905) February 2, 2019
Manu Tuilagi is a BEAST, that is all #IREvENG
— megan (@meganambxr) February 2, 2019
How good has Manu Tuilagi been today
— Dale Barry Hopkins (@hopkins_dale) February 2, 2019
— Jacob Freeman (@JacobFreeman95) February 2, 2019
Proof today a fit Manu Tuilagi is nothing short of world class.
If they can keep him fit, England are serious WC contenders.
— RugbyLAD (@RugbyLAD7) February 2, 2019
Manu tuilagi the difference today
— J (@flashyGnius) February 2, 2019
— Fahad Adil Baptisté (@adil_fahad) February 2, 2019
@Manutuilagi brilliant yesterday brilliant ??????
— Brakey (@brakey7) February 3, 2019
I love watching how much Manu Tuilagi loves playing for England.
— David Bates (@_DavidSBates) February 3, 2019
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