Eddie Jones has a new nickname for Manu Tuilagi – “the pinball machine”. The Leicester centre didn’t think he would get the chance to be the subject of the England coach’s humour in the build-up to the World Cup, but he was glad to be the reason for some amusement at the squad announcement on Monday for the finals in Japan.
Tuilagi and the World Cup have not been happy bedfellows. The centre was fined by the RFU and cautioned by police after jumping off a ferry as it docked in Auckland harbour after England were knocked out of the 2011 World Cup in New Zealand.
He was then charged with assaulting a police officer in 2015, with then-coach Stuart Lancaster deciding he could not pick a player who had been involved in that kind of incident. If left him ignored for the tournament England were hosting.
Various serious injuries in the years since 2015 put 28-year-old Tuliagi’s career in jeopardy and it has taken an incredible amount of physical and mental effort to allow him to claim one of the 31 places in the England squad for Japan.
Fresh from winning his 33rd England cap in the win over Wales on Sunday, Tuilagi said: “I worried I wouldn’t play in another World Cup. I didn’t think I would be in this position again and so it exciting to be around these players and it is so special.
— Leicester Tigers (@LeicesterTigers) August 12, 2019
“I’m excited to see where the players can take this team. Eddie started calling me ‘pinball machine’ because of my break against Wales at Twickenham and I also have the nickname ‘Chief’!
“Looking back now when I had all of the injuries, all I was thinking about was playing for England again. That is what pulled me through – it was the light at the end of the tunnel.
“The 2011 Cup does seem a very long time ago in terms of rugby because I have been out a lot with injuries and I’m just thankful I am still playing. There were a lot of dark days between the last World Cup and this one. For me to just go out and train and do what I love is the main thing.
Eddie Jones has named his 31-man England squad for the Rugby World Cuphttps://t.co/K41hq4OZmT
— RugbyPass (@RugbyPass) August 12, 2019
“I was watching the 2015 tournament at home and I felt for the boys. That is now long gone and the boys have moved on and the focus is all about taking the learning experience and bring it to this World Cup and we will be much better for it.
“It makes me smile just to be on the team bus pulling up at Twickenham because in the past I took it for granted about being on the pitch and training which is why I now always play with a smile on my face.
“For me, it is a massive honour to represent England at the highest competition in the world. I’m excited and want to make the most of it.”
WATCH: Owen Farrell talks to Nick Heath of RugbyPass following Monday’s RWC England squad announcement
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