Rugby World Cup: England’s Manu Tuilagi grateful to be in Japan

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By Tom Fordyce
Sports author in Tokyo
Of the small green shoots and glowing sparks around England’s predictably comfy progress through the opening two World Cup group matches, Manu Tuilagi’s second attempt against Tonga possibly succeeded at greater than every other.
The first was barely shabby, as he twisted and motivated and smashed through the lineup.
The second, also, wasn’t only about the dummy run that sucked in two defenders and created time and space for the pass to Jonny May, along with even the supporting lineup to have a return pass from his own winger and canter away.
It was those things, but it was the smile on the face of Tuilagi as he approached the try-line.
No-one else in the England team plays the same obvious enjoyment as the 28-year-old. And nobody else can really do exactly what he could when fit and in form.
Tuilagi told BBC 5 Live:»I consistently liked rugby, because I started playing. However, I enjoy it more.
«I know now that it’s not going to last forever, I must make the most of it.
«I’m just happy to be out there. You know, sometimes you take it for granted being able to train and being able to play but for me, going out there’s what I enjoy doing.»
For a lot of the previous six years Tuilagi has been unlucky with injury but also slow to realise an international rugby player currently has to act.
Since being among the few on-pitch advantages, aged just 20, as England crashed out of the 2011 World Cup, his record of misdemeanours and misfortunes are long and diverse.
They include jumping off a ferry to Auckland harbour, creating a bunny ears sign behind then-Prime Minister David Cameron’s head, punching Chris Ashton, tearing his hamstring, severe difficulties with both knees, attacking two female police officers and a taxi driver, and returning to the England hotel drunk through a yearlong training camp.
England coach Eddie Jones has stuck with him because he has been around long enough to understand a gift when he sees you. There is A healthy Tuilagi like no other back in Jones’ armoury, an unholy blend of guile, speed, power and menace.
2 years ago, when all was in England’s backyard and he had been less in need of himJones was fulsome of a participant few thought could make this World Cup.
«I understand he can demolish the All Blacks, so he is worth time, he is worth effort and value a lot of maintenance,» he said back then.
But when England have initially dipped alarmingly then come back towards genuine contention for the biggest prize in their game, Tuilagi is more valuable than ever before. Billy Vunipola and Owen Farrell are crucial to the Jones blueprint.
«There were lots of times I thought I would never play rugby again,» admits Tuilagi. «I am very thankful to be here.
«Eddie constantly kept in contact, all of the time that I was injured. He had been good. It was fine to have that — to give a little bit of help, a bit of light at the end of the tunnel. I’m thankful to Eddie for that.
«He’s 100% getting the best out of me. He also knows how to receive his players to manage his players and get them in the right frame of mind every game.
«He has been in the game at the very top level for 20 or more years, and that I believe experience helps him. His coaching is very clear and very easy.
«With every player it’s pretty easy. When you’re preparing for a game he’ll come around you and say a couple of items to choose for.
«In mind you understand exactly what you want to do when you get out there, and it helps us hugely»
Jones’ defence coach John Mitchell has worked together with explosive, powerful runners notably All Blacks legend Mils Muliaina at the 2003 World Cup, also gave two-time world winner Ma’a Nonu his international debut in the months leading up to that tournament.
In Tuilagi he sees a guy who has transformed in adulthood, a participant as comfy at inside center — where he played for England in this season’s Six Nations — as in outside center, where he has so far been pushed inside this championship as Jones has gone for its George Ford-Farrell axis in 10 and 12.
Mitchell states:»Manu comprehends that both roles have different defensive and attacking decision-making facets.
«When he plays with 12, he is nearer to the attack and at 13 he gets to have a little more speed and run onto the ball, and it’s a bit more one-on-one instead of two-on-two as a 12.
«Defensively he has the ability when at 13 to spook the attacker. He does get a hit , but could certainly feed attack when he can contact you. He is also quite comfortable in distance as well.
«He goes on his footy at a really quiet way. He is a’doer’ than a talker.
«He enjoys one-on-one conversations, and he’s a fantastic thinker about the game — if you move and have a conversation about a circumstance, he is actually coachable.
«Together with the Manu we see today, the direction is clear . He’s being managed so I believe he gains a good deal of confidence together with all the physical constraints that were prior, from this he needed from each of those injuries.
«He’s also grateful and respectful he’s at this tournament.
«You don’t know if you’re likely to get an opportunity on this world stage ever again, so there’s a real sense of unfinished business in his eyes.»
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