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
Aviva Premiership
Friday , November 28
Bath vs Harlequins19:45
Saturday , November 29
Leicester Tigers vs Wasps15:00
Exeter vs Saracens16:30
Sunday , November 30
London Irish vs Gloucester13:00
London Welsh vs Northampton14:30
Newcastle Falcons vs Sale Sharks15:15
More Aviva Premiership fixtures
International Match
Saturday , November 29
Wales vs South Africa14:30
England vs Australia14:30
More International Match fixtures
Guinness PRO12
Friday , November 28
Munster vs Ulster19:35
Cardiff Blues vs Treviso19:35
Saturday , November 29
Zebre vs Edinburgh15:00
Leinster vs Ospreys17:15
Connacht vs Scarlets19:30
Sunday , November 30
Glasgow Warriors vs Dragons16:00
More Guinness PRO12 fixtures
Top 14
Saturday , November 29
Toulon vs Clermont Auvergne14:45
Oyonnax vs Bordeaux-Begles18:30
Lyon vs Montpellier18:30
La Rochelle vs Bayonne18:30
Castres vs Racing Metro Paris18:30
Toulouse vs Grenoble20:45
Sunday , November 30
Stade Francais vs Brive18:00
More Top 14 fixtures
Recent Results
FixtureDetails
All times are local
Aviva Premiership
Sunday , November 23
Saracens 24 - 31 NorthamptonSaracens vs Northampton Report
London Welsh 5 - 26 Leicester TigersLondon Welsh vs Leicester Tigers Report
More Aviva Premiership results
International Match
Georgia 35 - 24 JapanGeorgia vs Japan Report
More International Match results
Guinness PRO12
Treviso 24 - 24 LeinsterTreviso vs Leinster Report
Edinburgh 28 - 13 Cardiff BluesEdinburgh vs Cardiff Blues Report
More Guinness PRO12 results
Aviva Premiership
Saturday , November 22
London Irish 23 - 33 BathLondon Irish vs Bath Report
Exeter 31 - 15 WaspsExeter vs Wasps Report
More Aviva Premiership results
International Match
Italy 6 - 22 South AfricaItaly vs South Africa Report
England 28 - 9 SamoaEngland vs Samoa Report
France 13 - 18 ArgentinaFrance vs Argentina Report
Wales 16 - 34 New ZealandWales vs New Zealand Report
Scotland 37 - 12 TongaScotland vs Tonga Report
Ireland 26 - 23 AustraliaIreland vs Australia Report
Romania 18 - 9 CanadaRomania vs Canada Report
More International Match results
Aviva Premiership
Friday , November 21
Harlequins 12 - 16 Sale SharksHarlequins vs Sale Sharks Report
Newcastle Falcons 20 - 10 GloucesterNewcastle Falcons vs Gloucester Report
More Aviva Premiership results
International Match
Fiji 20 - 14 USAFiji vs USA Report
More International Match results
Guinness PRO12
Dragons 12 - 38 MunsterDragons vs Munster Report
Ulster 25 - 16 OspreysUlster vs Ospreys Report
Connacht 43 - 3 ZebreConnacht vs Zebre Report
Scarlets 19 - 9 Glasgow WarriorsScarlets vs Glasgow Warriors Report
More Guinness PRO12 results
Aviva Premiership
Sunday , November 16
Leicester Tigers 21 - 21 SaracensLeicester Tigers vs Saracens Report
Wasps 71 - 7 London WelshWasps vs London Welsh Report
More Aviva Premiership results
International Match
Ireland 49 - 7 GeorgiaIreland vs Georgia Report
More International Match results
Aviva Premiership
Saturday , November 15
Sale Sharks 36 - 8 London IrishSale Sharks vs London Irish Report
More Aviva Premiership results
Aviva Premiership Table
PosTeamPPts
1Northampton830
2Exeter828
3Bath828
4Saracens825
5Leicester Tigers821