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‘Freak’ Manu Tuilagi excites Mike Tindall – but will he ever catch England’s greatest ever try scorer Rory Underwood?

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Manu Tuilagi flattens his England team-mate Chris Ashton

Flashback: Tuilagi flattens England team-mate Ashton

BY JOHN GUBBA

Just as Will Carling famously described Jonah Lomu as a ‘freak’ at the 1995 Rugby World Cup in South Africa – Mike Tindall has paid the same ‘accolade’ to his England team-mate Manu Tuilagi after his devastating display in the 67-3 rout of Romania.

Tuilagi may not have yet trampled over his opposition in quite the way the former All Black wing did against England in the semi-final 16 years ago, but the Samoa-born midfielder is making his presence felt.

Intriguingly, Tuilagi is a completely different beast from England’s greatest ever try scorer Rory Underwood – one of the backs demolished by Lomu all those years ago – but there is already the belief that the 20-year-old can break all records.

 Tuilagi, who has four brothers that have represented Samoa, has only been a Test player for five matches. But he has already scored four tries, including one of England’s 10 in their Pool B romp against Romania at the Otago Stadium on Saturday.

The Official Tribute to Rory Underwood - click to buy

The Official Tribute to Rory Underwood - click to buy

Qualified to play for England on residency grounds, Tuilagi only made his Premiership debut in September last year but went on to score seven tries in 20 league matches for Underwood’s former team Leicester Tigers.

As Tindall, moved from outside to inside centre to accommodate Tuilagi in England’s World Cup team, said after his display against Romania: “Manu is getting better and better so it will take something to go wrong to knock him out of that spot.

“He’s a freak to be honest, in the nicest possible way. The power he’s got and his feet and that little change of pace…He’s got a massive fend and it just makes it difficult for people to tackle him.

“Even if people do tackle him he’s always half-through and we can play off quick ball. He’s a handful.”


Manu Tuilagi is an awesome talent who can make his mark on the 2011 Rugby World Cup . . .

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WHY WILKO & MANU HAVE THE X-FACTOR TO DELIVER THAT KNOCK-OUT BLOW FOR ENGLAND AT 2011 RUGBY WORLD CUP

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The wonder of Wilko: Can Jonny recapture the magic of 2003 when his last gasp drop goal won the World Cup for England

Wonder of Wilko: Can Jonny recapture the magic of 2003 when last gasp drop goal won World Cup for England?

 

Easy Tiger! Tuilagi escaped with a yellow card after punching Northampton's England wing Chris Ashton

Easy Tiger! Tuilagi escaped with a yellow card back in May after punching Northampton's England wing Chris Ashton

 

BY JOHN GUBBA

There are two big reasons for England fans to be optimistic ahead of the 2011 Rugby World Cup – Manu Tuilagi and Jonny Wilkinson.

Sensational Samoan-born Leicester Tigers centre Tuilagi has been the find of the season and his raw power will be a potent weapon for England in New Zealand.

But just as crucial is the return to the top of his game by 2003 World Cup winner ‘Wilko’.

There is no substitute for experience at the top level and England’s rejuvenated fly-half is playing some of the best rugby of his career to edge ahead of Toby Flood in the race for the starting line-up.

England may be outsiders at the upcoming tournament. But the men who wear that famous red rose have caused upsets before at the World Cup. And to use some boxing imagery, they have big hitters in the side who are capable of delivering that knockout blow when it really matters.

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