Should England Consider Playing Manu Tuilagi At 12?

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Whilst the majority of England’s starting XV pretty much picks itself, there is still a huge amount of debate over who should start at inside centre for the World Cup.

There are a number of candidates who have put their hand up for selection at 12, but none of them have really proven that they are capable of being anything more than adequate on the international stage. The current incumbent Luther Burrell looks the best bet so far, but even he has so far failed to really make the shirt his own.

For this reason, perhaps now is the time to consider moving powerhouse centre Manu Tuilagi from 13 to 12 when he eventually returns from injury. There are obviously several flaws with this plan, most obvious of which is his lack of game time at centre. There are also concerns over his distribution and kicking game which could impact the wider team.

These are obviously important criticisms and points to give serious consideration to. That being said though, given the way England currently set up Tuilagi could actually be the ideal man to wear the number 12 shirt into the World Cup. One of the key reasons for this being the ever improving form at outside centre of Jonathan Joseph.

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The form of Joseph should dictate that he retains the number 13 shirt unless injury should strike. Equally though, Tuilagi remains one of England’s few regular game changers who is possibly just too good to leave out of the starting XV when fully fit. For that reason a move to 12 for Tuilagi could see England benefit from the best of both worlds.

England’s current structure sees the two centres often switching roles, or even lining up either side of George Ford at 10. In that respect it potentially matters little who starts at 12 and who starts at 13. Add in the fact that Tuilagi and Joseph boast contrasting styles and you have a midfield combination who provide George Ford with genuine options.

Whilst Tuilagi is ideal for taking the ball up and getting over the gainline, Joseph can step in as a secondary distributor, or use his pace to run around defences and to chase chips over the top. Tuilagi can also provide the perfect decoy for Joseph in much the same way as Jamie Roberts has been deployed by Wales.

A midfield axis of Tuilagi and Joseph would provide a pair of genuine game changers in the centres who both bring very different skill-sets to the side. Their ability to interchange gives England the element of surprise ball in hand and allows them to change their point of attack with a single call. It would also allow them to select their two most impressive centres for the World Cup.

Do you think moving Tuilagi to 12 is the way forward for England?

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2 comments

  1. It’s been done, back in 2013 Tuilagi did a decent job with Brian O’Driscoll outside him.

  2. He was played on the wing in New Zealand and was ineffective, definitely a 13… one of the best outside centres in the world when fully fit… Play at 13 with JoJo at 12 or even Burgess (if he actually starts playing as well in Union as he did in League)!!!

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