Guest writer Cameron Petrie discusses why he believes England coach Eddie Jones should include Manu Tuilagi in his matchday squad to face Wales…
1.Added physicality to the backline:
The England backline is rather light weight when compared to Wales’, the stats showing England averaging 14 stone 4 pounds in weight and 5 ft 11.5 inches in height. This when compared to Wales’ is pretty petite, who are averaging 15 stone 9 inches in weight a man and 6 ft 2 inches in height. Alarm bells are ringing straight away with England worrying about ‘Warrenball’ battering its way through England’s relatively lightweight backline. Most of Wales’s tries have come from down the middle route one sort of play, the best example being Jamie Roberts try against Scotland a few weeks back, he charged in on a fantastic angle in full flight just getting the ball down over the whitewash.
Wales have not been convincing with their backline play in executing overlaps, an example of this was Faletau getting tackled and losing the ball against France, there were 3 men outside him which probably would have resulted in one of them going over for a try. Lack of quality execution is something England really need to act on and expose Wales, the ability of having two 10’s in the England backline will benefit them hugely when it comes to executing overlaps e.g Mike Brown’s try against Ireland coming directly from Farrell’s wide pass off the left hand. However if it does not work with England trying to beat Wales on the outside i think Manu will have to be brought on and just go up the middle of Wales.
I don’t agree with playing fire with fire but if Roberts is smashing through England’s light weight door of Ford/Farrell moving Farrell to 10 and bringing Tuilagi on at 12 could be the ideal counter. Roberts is 6 ft 4 and 110 kg (17 stone 5 pounds) so no lightweight himself but Manu Tuilagi counteracts this in being 6 ft so nearly 4 inches shorter than Roberts but 108 kg (17 stone 4 pounds) showing how compact the weight is in Manu. Im not saying start Tuilagi, i am saying he is more than a decent option to come off the bench if plan A does not work for England, plus what other 12 in world rugby would thrive off ‘Warrenball’ like Manu Tuilagi? I cannot think of many.
Wales would not enjoy the a pumped up Tuilagi coming on for the last 20 minutes with them already tired, the intimidation factor would go from 7 out of 10 to an easy 9 with Manu on the pitch, remember he is the man who architected Lancaster’s finest win as England head coach with that 38 21 win when Tuilagi scored and set up tries for fun. No average player steamrolls the All Blacks, the guy when fully fit is one of England’s few world class players.
2. Impact substitution:
As said in point one I am all for keeping the same backline, it has done perfectly well with 3 wins out 3 so you cannot complain as a fan when comparing it to the dire World Cup England had last year. I do genuinely think England will have reasonable success if they keep the same backline as they have for every game. But Wales’s defence has been excellent, meaning England will have to aim to get outside of Wales with Joseph’s arcing runs on the outside trying to beat Jonathan Davies the Clermont man.
If the tide starts turning which I am not saying it will, as personally i think England’s pack will be more than capable of dealing with Wales… but if Wales start building up momentum and getting on the front foot they are more than a hard match. This showed in the world cup last year with how close they pushed South Africa and Australia. If it starts to become a physical battle in the backline, looking at the bench it would be stupid not to bring Tuilagi on.
He’s getting fitter and fitter with continually improving performances for Leicester, today he even picked up a try and casually smashed a second row in ex England international Geoff Parling with Geoff bouncing off Tuilagi’s 17 and half stone frame. Tuilagi himself will be raring to go and will only thrive off the physical confrontations Wales will develop in the match, Eddie Jones you would be mad not to include him on the bench!
3. Containment of Roberts:
Previously I mentioned the battle which could develop between Roberts and the England backline, to be honest I queried giving it an individual point but thinking about it, it could be a massive part of the potential 6 nations title decider at Twickenham next Saturday. Roberts coming in on the scales at 17 stone 5 pounds or 110 kg and 6 ft 4 is going to be told to run down the channel of Ford and Farrell who are considerably lighter, weighing and measuring a lot less with Ford being 5 ft 10 13 stone 3 and Farrell being 6 ft 2 15 stone.
Farrell is bigger than most people think but still 2 and bit stone off Roberts which could mean a tough day in store for Ford and Farrell where Roberts will be taking the majority of his crash balls. As an England fan I would keep the same backline as I don’t agree with changing a winning formula, but the second Roberts starts smashing through either the 10 or 12 channel I would start to get worried if I was Eddie Jones.
Roberts was man of the match against Scotland and should have had it against Ireland, he also had a good display against France. So containing him should be one of England’s main targets, I think Farrell will give it a good go being the aggressive confrontational player he is but if it starts going pear shaped there is only one man you would want to bring on. That man being the Samoan wrecking ball Manu Tuilagi, he can break down any defence in world rugby with raw physicality and power you cannot buy or make in the gym.
Tuilagi will enjoy the battle against Roberts, Tuilagi has 6 ft and 17 stone 4 on his side with serious power and agility. Roberts might not show it but really does not want that man to be in the England 23 for Saturday’s match. If plan A for England does not work bring plan B on which is Manu Tuilagi, stopping Roberts going forward will instantly impact Wales momentum and getting front foot ball. You stop Wales getting front foot ball you’re already half way there to getting a victory over them. Over to you Eddie Jones.