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The three fixable factors behind Eddie Jones' England stagnation

Eddie Jones' England weren't far away from making the grade.

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Watch: A 17-year-old Manu Tuilagi scoring his first Twickenham try

By Liam Heagney
Manu Tuilagi after swapping shirts with Rieko Ioane last weekend (Photo by Paul Harding/Getty Images)

The official England Rugby Twitter account has whetted the appetite for this Saturday’s Autumn Nations Series finale by posting a video of Manu Tuilagi scoring his first Twickenham try at the age of 17. It was April 2009 when the now 31-year-old had his first run-out at English Rugby HQ and the 28-second piece of footage of him in action as a teenager has proven very popular online ahead of what will be the 50th Test appearance.

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Playing for the Hinkley-based John Cleveland College in the Daily Mail RBS Schools U18 Vase final, the clip begins with the Cleveland scrum-half looking up from a ruck and flashing a pass to his out-half Ryan Oakes, who was stationed on the opposition ten-metre line.

On gathering the ball, the No10 sent up a garryowen and with the camera following its trajectory, we then got to see a strapping, muscular Tuilagi come flying into view, chasing hard down the right-hand wing in his No14 jersey.

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Video Spacer

The ball bounced on the ground just outside the 22 and despite two Hampton players racing towards him, Tuilagi caught the ball with his two hands and stepped into the gap between the pair.

Knowing he was going to score as he had defence beaten, Tuilagi carried the ball in his right hand while raising his left arm in a finger-wagging celebration before diving over the line, touching down and throwing the ball into the air in jubilation.

After receiving the congratulations of a number of his teammates, Tuilagi was then seen clasping his hands together in a prayer-like manner and looking skyward to give thanks before kissing his left hand and raising a pointed finger aloft. The schools final at Twickenham, which Cleveland went on to win 23-15, was the third game in a week for Tuilagi and prop Ryan Bower.

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Both had played for Leicester on the previous Wednesday in their 52-14 academy victory over the Japanese High Schools, a game in which Tuilagi scored four tries, and they were also involved on the Sunday in the England U18 trouncing of the tourists, a 71-7 win at Exeter.

The duo then visited The Stoop on Tuesday for a final training session with Cleveland and a pep-talk from then Harlequins director of rugby Dean Richards, a JCC old boy. While Bower went on to enjoy a reputable club career with Leicester, Nottingham, Worcester and now Dallas, Tuilagi went a few considerable steps further, the Leicester and now Sale centre representing England and the British and Irish Lions.

His career in recent years has been plagued by injury, but he is now set to play his fourth successive England game this month – securing him a milestone 50th cap eleven years after his Test debut.

“It’s been a difficult time for Manu. The pleasing thing for us is that for three weeks he has been involved in every training session,” enthused England boss Eddie Jones after naming Tuilagi at No13, the same role he had versus Argentina and New Zealand either side of a run as a sub against Japan. “We did quite a tough session on Wednesday and he got through everything. We’re really pleased about his progress.”

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