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'Tuilagi is going to have to cover a lot of metres' - Andy Goode

By Andy Goode
(Photo by PA)

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It’s a case of square England pegs in round holes again from Eddie Jones and it might just work against Australia, but Manu Tuilagi won’t be playing on the wing against the Springboks. It isn’t just Tuilagi being shifted out one either – Jones has an openside at No8, a second row at blindside, a fly-half at centre and two No8 number eights on the bench as well.


Picking players outside of their usual position is something the coach has a history of. Tuilagi on the wing isn’t necessarily a selection I would have gone with but Jones isn’t trying to kid anyone, you can see the logic behind trying to get all of your best players on the field and he will be judged on the end result as always.

One thing I’m not sure about is Jones’ comments that he has seen enough of Tuilagi playing on the wing in the past. He did start one Test on the wing against the All Blacks back in 2014 but I doubt Jones was watching when he played there for Leicester against Aironi in 2011 or made his first couple of Premiership starts in that position.

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We will find out next week but I just don’t think there is any way Jones would have picked Tuilagi to start on the England wing if South Africa, with their kicking game, had been the opposition. As it is, the Wallabies don’t usually kick very much and it may well prove to be a shrewd choice.

Tuilagi is going to have to cover a lot of metres because I imagine he will be on the open wing in defence as much as possible, or lining up at centre with Henry Slade pushed out one, so that it is Freddie Steward or Jonny May under any high ball that might be sent up. Steward may still be just 20 years of age and facing a top nation for the first time himself but the fact that he is so good aerially must have been a factor in Jones feeling confident enough to pick Tuilagi on the wing.

In attack, it is great that Marcus Smith has all the big weapons at his disposal having been given the keys to drive things from the No10 jersey and he will hopefully be allowed to do just that. The reason for the selection, of course, is the Owen Farrell conundrum. Jones wants to get his skipper in the side and the thinking is that he will help to guide Smith in his first Test against significant opposition as well.


I said it last week but Tuilagi and Slade is England’s best centre combination and Australia may be relieved to not have to face them but the key for them is to get the balance of their game right rather than trying to target Tuilagi on the wing. They made a fair few errors against Scotland last week and the last thing they need is a load of scrums with James Slipper switching from loosehead to tighthead and Allan Alaalatoa and Taniela Tupou both out with a concussion.

One thing that shouldn’t be lost in all this is how unlucky Adam Radwan is to be left out completely. The players who are playing might be taking the headlines but he was very impressive last week and he will hopefully be back in an England shirt very soon.

It will be great to see youngsters Raffi Quirke and Bevan Rodd make their debuts, but the latter is an interesting selection ahead of Mako Vunipola, with many thinking it spells the end of the Saracens player’s international career.

That depends on his contract situation and whether he chooses to head to France but his clubmate Jamie George knows only too well that things can change quickly. As Friday showed with Rodd dramatically getting promoted to the starting XV after Ellis Genge pulled out, we are only a twist or two away from Mako starting against the Springboks next week really.


People can debate Jones’ selections but one thing you can’t argue with is his record against Australia. He has won all seven Tests against them as England head coach and has more than earned the right to make these calls. We will find out on Saturday and with selection next week whether Tuilagi is an international winger moving forwards but, looking at the two teams on paper, I’m expecting at least a ten-point victory for England.


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