CHRIS FOY: Eddie Jones has provided a huge shock by selecting Manu Tuilagi on the wing… this England team is positive and aggressive – and Australia won’t be looking forward to a second-half onslaught with plenty of talent waiting to come off the bench
- Eddie Jones has picked Manu Tuilagi to play on the wing against Australia
- It is a shock decision that hasn’t been tried since 2014 but it is very positive
- Tuilagi has shed weight to ensure he can play for longer and it is working well
- There will be a second-half onslaught with lots of talent waiting in the wings
Marcus Smith has been picked at No 10 but, remarkably, that is not the stand-out element of this team selection. Manu Tuilagi on the wing is an out-of-the-blue shock.
It has only happened once before, against the All Blacks in Dunedin back in 2014. On that occasion, the-then Leicester centre broke clear down the right flank and appeared destined to score a try, but he couldn’t sustain the pace required to beat the covering defence.
Stuart Lancaster never repeated the experiment. Tuilagi was a specialist midfield asset before and – in between all the injury setbacks along the way – he has stayed in his familiar territory ever since. So seeing him line up wide on the right against Australia will be a novelty.
Manu Tuilagi (centre) has been picked to play on the wing for England against Australia
It is a big call by Eddie Jones but his selection for Saturday’s game is positive and aggressive
Tuilagi last played on the wing for England against the All Blacks in Dunedin in 2014 (pictured)
Pity the poor Wallaby winger who has to stand in his path. The decision by Eddie Jones to redeploy his Anglo-Samoan wrecking-ball runner is a reflection of the fitness strides he has made since the end of last season. Tuilagi is looking lean – relatively, for his frame – and sharp.
This is the up-shot of his weight-loss pact with fellow Sale centre, Rohan Janse van Rensburg. In the aftermath of the Sharks’ Premiership semi-final defeat against Exeter last season, the South African told his partner that they both needed to lose some bulk, to achieve greater stamina and more regular impacts during a game.
Tuilagi has shed around 5kg and the result has been an ability to play full games, as he has done twice for Sale this season. It has also made him more explosive than he has been since his early days in the England team, as a tear-away rookie.
Speaking to Sportsmail last week, he said: ‘It’s made a massive difference. I’m able to play for 80 minutes and get through it. Before, I’d get to 50 or 60 minutes and start feeling it. It’s a long time to be carrying around that six or seven extra kgs, when I don’t really need it, I don’t think. I want to get involved in the game a lot more.’
Marcus Smith is playing at No 10 but remarkably that is not the stand-out element of the team
Tuilagi (top) has been shedding weight in a bid to be able to play for longer in matches
Last weekend against Tonga, Tuilagi was dynamic and impressive, but fellow centre Henry Slade was named Man of the Match. So when it came to reintegrating Owen Farrell into the side, Jones and his assistants have evidently concluded that both of their in-form midfielders should be retained.
Given his new, enhanced state of fitness, they have reasonable grounds to believe that Tuilagi can cope and thrive on the wing, so it is a gamble worth taking.
Another gamble worth taking is pairing Smith with Farrell in a new 10-12 alliance. That is the plan Jones had for the autumn campaign so Jones has decided to go with it now, despite the inherent risk involved in fielding an untried combination against dangerous opponents. It is a sign of conviction and confidence, as is the retention of Tom Curry at No 8.
Adam Radwan is the victim of this reshuffle and it is harsh on the Newcastle wing to go from being a try-scoring member of the starting XV to being removed from the matchday 23, but he will come again.
The Sale star hasn’t played wing for England since 2014, when Stuart Lancaster tried it
You feel for Adam Radwan, who has been dropped from the squad entirely, despite impressing
There will be much anticipation about the threat England can pose from the bench. When the Australian defence are tiring, they will have to handle the emergence of Sam Simmonds, as well as fellow fired-up No 8 Alex Dombrandt.
Uncapped Sale scrum-half Raffi Quirke and Max Malins – who has been prolific on the wing for Saracens this season – can also spark a second-half onslaught.
This is a squad chosen with aggressive and positive intent. England certainly won’t die wondering.
ENGLAND TEAM TO FACE AUSTRALIA
15. Freddie Steward (Leicester Tigers, 3 caps), 14. Manu Tuilagi (Sale Sharks, 44 caps), 13. Henry Slade (Exeter Chiefs, 41 caps), 12. Owen Farrell (Saracens, 93 caps), 11. Jonny May (Gloucester Rugby, 67 caps), 10. Marcus Smith (Harlequins, 3 caps), 9. Ben Youngs (Leicester Tigers, 110 caps), 1. Ellis Genge (Leicester Tigers, 31 caps), 2. Jamie George (Saracens, 60 caps), 3. Kyle Sinckler (Bristol Bears, 45 caps), 4. Maro Itoje (Saracens, 49 caps), 5. Jonny Hill (Exeter Chiefs, 10 caps), 6. Courtney Lawes (Northampton Saints, 88 caps), 7. Sam Underhill (Bath Rugby, 25 caps), 8. Tom Curry (Sale Sharks, 34 caps)
16. Jamie Blamire (Newcastle Falcons, 3 caps), 17. Bevan Rodd (Sale Sharks, uncapped), 18. Will Stuart (Bath Rugby, 13 caps), 19. Charlie Ewels (Bath Rugby, 24 caps), 20. Alex Dombrandt (Harlequins, 2 caps), 21. Sam Simmonds (Exeter Chiefs, 7 caps), 22. Raffi Quirke (Sale Sharks, uncapped), 23. Max Malins (Saracens, 8 caps)
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