Planet Rugby

England will cope without Tuilagi

28th January 2013 14:12

Share:

Jonathan Joseph with Manu Tuilagi at training

Candidate: Joseph with Tuilagi

In news that many England supporters had feared but also prepared for, Manu Tuilagi will play no part against Scotland at Twickenham on Saturday.

The Leicester centre has struggled with an ankle injury in recent weeks, dropping out of the Tigers' crucial Heineken Cup encounter with Toulouse over a week ago.

Tuilagi's stock is justifiably high after the best performance of his career so far in the win over New Zealand last November, where his interception try and two assists in the second half swung the momentum back in England's favour.

Naturally if Tuilagi can do that to a side as highly revered as the All Blacks, then the assumption is that he can do so against anybody, making him England's best attacking option.

Taking him out of the equation has certainly weakened England's firepower but does not mean all is lost.

The decision now for Stuart Lancaster, Andy Farrell and Mike Catt is how much they decide to tinker with the back-line from the November Internationals.

In terms of the simplest fit, London Irish centre Jonathan Joseph has had to bide his time for an England breakthrough since making his debut in South Africa last year.

With elusive footwork and a low error count he certainly fits the bill, the only doubt is that he is yet to explode onto the Test scene as many hoped he would initially do so, despite limited opportunities. The Calcutta Cup clash could well be his chance to make a mark.

Brad Barritt effectively secured his inside centre spot with his try against New Zealand after critics had bemoaned his lack of attacking threat. The Saracen offers an invaluable amount in defence, but with Tuilagi sidelined England must decide whether or not to move Barritt outfield to allow more creativity at inside centre.

Moving Barritt would allow the inclusion of Billy Twelvetrees at inside centre, a man earmarked for Test rugby since he burst onto the scene with Leicester back in 2009.

His move to Gloucester before the beginning of this season has paid off, with Twelvetrees racking up the game-time that he missed out on whilst with the Tigers.

Stuart Lancaster expressed at the beginning of his coaching tenure that his preferred midfield combination was to operate with two playmakers, and Twelvetrees - who is uncapped - would appear to have the necessary skill set to fill the role.

One final option would be to take Owen Farrell from the fly-half berth and move him into outside centre, pairing him with Barritt in a combination that is regularly used by Saracens, with Toby Flood coming in at ten.

If Farrell is England's long-term fly-half, as he has earned the right to be for some time after the New Zealand victory, then moving him into the centres would send an odd message.

Flood's form has been questionable in recent weeks and if Freddie Burns was fit then a Burns-Barritt-Farrell combination would have held great appeal.

England therefore certainly have options available, but none that seem immediately obvious.

Whoever Lancaster selects, the loss of Tuilagi is a blow for England - and a boost for Scotland.

by Ben Coles
@bencoles_

Forthcoming Fixtures
FixtureDetails
All times are local
Rugby Championship
Saturday , August 23
New Zealand vs AustraliaNew Zealand vs Australia Preview
Argentina vs South AfricaArgentina vs South Africa Preview
More Rugby Championship fixtures
Top 14
Friday , August 22
Toulouse vs CastresToulouse vs Castres Preview
Saturday , August 23
Brive vs Clermont Auvergne14:45
Toulon vs La Rochelle18:30
Montpellier vs GrenobleMontpellier vs Grenoble Preview
Bayonne vs Oyonnax18:30
Bordeaux-Begles vs Racing Metro Paris18:30
Stade Francais vs Lyon20:45
More Top 14 fixtures
Currie Cup
Saturday , August 23
Blue Bulls vs Eastern Province Kings15:00
Western Province vs Lions17:05
Sharks vs Cheetahs19:10
More Currie Cup fixtures
ITM Cup
Saturday , August 23
Northland vs WellingtonNorthland vs Wellington Preview
Counties Manukau vs OtagoCounties Manukau vs Otago Preview
Sunday , August 24
Manawatu vs AucklandManawatu vs Auckland Preview
Bay Of Plenty vs TasmanBay Of Plenty vs Tasman Preview
Wednesday, August 27
Waikato vs Taranaki19:35
Thursday , August 28
Canterbury vs Northland19:35
More ITM Cup fixtures
Recent Results
FixtureDetails
All times are local
Currie Cup
Friday , August 22
Pumas 33 - 15 GriquasPumas vs Griquas Report
More Currie Cup results
ITM Cup
Waikato 27 - 58 CanterburyWaikato vs Canterbury Report
Hawkes Bay 29 - 26 TaranakiHawkes Bay vs Taranaki Report
Thursday , August 21
North Harbour 21 - 25 Southland
Sunday , August 17
Tasman 35 - 15 Hawkes BayTasman vs Hawkes Bay Report
Northland 23 - 28 Manawatu
More ITM Cup results
Rugby Championship
Saturday , August 16
Australia 12 - 12 New ZealandAustralia vs New Zealand Report
South Africa 13 - 6 ArgentinaSouth Africa vs Argentina Report
More Rugby Championship results
Top 14
Clermont Auvergne 30 - 26 GrenobleClermont Auvergne vs Grenoble Report
Montpellier 16 - 19 Racing Metro ParisMontpellier vs Racing Metro Paris Report
Brive 37 - 15 La Rochelle
Castres 22 - 25 Stade Francais
Bordeaux-Begles 18 - 9 Lyon
Toulouse 20 - 19 Oyonnax
More Top 14 results
Currie Cup
Lions 60 - 19 Eastern Province KingsLions vs Eastern Province Kings Report
Western Province 41 - 17 Blue BullsWestern Province vs Blue Bulls Report
Cheetahs 34 - 27 GriquasCheetahs vs Griquas Report
More Currie Cup results
ITM Cup
Otago 28 - 14 North Harbour
Wellington 25 - 37 WaikatoWellington vs Waikato Report
Canterbury 48 - 9 AucklandCanterbury vs Auckland Report
More ITM Cup results
Top 14
Friday , August 15
Bayonne 15 - 29 ToulonBayonne vs Toulon Report
More Top 14 results
Currie Cup
Sharks 34 - 17 PumasSharks vs Pumas Report
More Currie Cup results
ITM Cup
Southland 34 - 23 Bay Of Plenty
Thursday , August 14
Taranaki 9 - 9 Counties ManukauTaranaki vs Counties Manukau Report
More ITM Cup results
Currie Cup
Saturday , August 9
Griquas 24 - 31 SharksGriquas vs Sharks Report
More Currie Cup results
Aviva Premiership Table
PosTeamPPts
1Bath00
2Exeter00
3Gloucester00
4Harlequins00
5Leicester Tigers00