Eddie Jones is claiming England will try and avoid too many damaging “collisions“ with the Springboks at Twickenham on November 3, but is set to use rampaging centre Manu Tuilagi, whose game is built around physical contact.
Jones enjoys verbal sparring with the opposition and appears to be happy to send out mixed messages from the England training camp in Portugal where Tuilagi, the Leicester centre, is hoping to earn a first start under the head coach following his return from a series of serious injuries.
With Jones unable to call upon Mako and Billy Vunipola, Nathan Hughes and Joe Launchbury, he lacks the kind of players who could have significantly dented the Springbok defence and it is expected he will use Tuilagi to get over the gain line wider out and then move the opposition around.
Jones has been impressed with Tuilagi’s latest comeback from injury, particularly his impact against the Scarlets in the Heineken Champions Cup. “He’s definitely moving in the right direction,” Jones told Sky Sports News. “What I was pleased about in the Leicester versus Scarlets game was that he was just brilliant at the basics. He did all the simple things really well.
“When he had the opportunity to run hard and through gaps he did, made his tackles, did his clean-out work, really good basics. We are looking forward to seeing more of that from Manu. He’s in good physical condition. His GPS, the measure of his running metrics during the game, was very similar to a Test match. He’s certainly not far away.”
As for the tactical plan he is aiming to use against the first of England’s four November test opponents, Jones added: “We’re going to have to move the ball a bit more and kick the ball a bit more, a combination of both. We have to be very strategic in the way we play the game because we can’t afford to get into a collision game with the Springboks.”
If Tuilagi is chosen to start at inside centre it would mean picking Owen Farrell in the No10 role, moving England away from Jones’s preferred mid-field of Farrell at No.12 and George Ford at outside half. That would be a major shift in attacking emphasis from Jones who goes into the November tests having lost six of his last seven tests and in need of inspiration.
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