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 , September 19
Gloucester vs Exeter19:45
Saturday , September 20
Sale vs London Welsh14:00
London Irish vs Saracens15:00
Harlequins vs Wasps15:00
Bath vs Leicester15:15
Sunday , September 21
Newcastle vs Northampton14:00
More Aviva Premiership fixtures
Guinness PRO12
Friday , September 19
Munster vs Zebre19:30
Cardiff Blues vs Ulster19:35
Connacht vs Leinster19:35
Saturday , September 20
Newport Gwent D'gons vs Glasgow14:40
Scarlets vs Benetton Treviso18:00
Sunday , September 21
Ospreys vs Edinburgh16:00
More Guinness PRO12 fixtures
Top 14
Friday , September 19
Brive vs Toulon18:00
Saturday , September 20
Racing Metro Paris vs Toulouse18:00
La Rochelle vs Bordeaux-Begles18:00
Clermont Auvergne vs Lyon18:00
Castres vs Oyonnax18:00
Grenoble vs Bayonne18:00
Montpellier vs Stade Francais18:00
More Top 14 fixtures
Currie Cup
Friday , September 19
Lions vs Pumas19:10
Saturday , September 20
Western Province vs Griquas15:00
Blue Bulls vs Sharks17:05
Eastern Province Kings vs Cheetahs19:10
More Currie Cup fixtures
ITM Cup
Wednesday, September 17
Southland vs Tasman19:35
Thursday , September 18
Northland vs Taranaki19:35
More ITM Cup fixtures
Recent Results
FixtureDetails
All times are local
Aviva Premiership
Sunday , September 14
Wasps 20 - 16 NorthamptonWasps vs Northampton Report
Newcastle 18 - 20 London IrishNewcastle vs London Irish Report
More Aviva Premiership results
Guinness PRO12
Cardiff Blues 12 - 33 GlasgowCardiff Blues vs Glasgow Report
More Guinness PRO12 results
Top 14
Bordeaux-Begles 27 - 21 MontpellierBordeaux-Begles vs Montpellier Report
More Top 14 results
ITM Cup
Waikato 26 - 21 Counties ManukauWaikato vs Counties Manukau Report
Hawkes Bay 41 - 0 Otago
More ITM Cup results
Aviva Premiership
Saturday , September 13
Gloucester 34 - 27 Sale SharksGloucester vs Sale Sharks Report
Bath 53 - 26 London WelshBath vs London Welsh Report
Exeter 20 - 24 LeicesterExeter vs Leicester Report
More Aviva Premiership results
Rugby Championship
New Zealand 14 - 10 South AfricaNew Zealand vs South Africa Report
Australia 32 - 25 ArgentinaAustralia vs Argentina Report
More Rugby Championship results
Guinness PRO12
Leinster 42 - 12 ScarletsLeinster vs Scarlets Report
More Guinness PRO12 results
Top 14
Toulouse 9 - 13 Clermont AuvergneToulouse vs Clermont Auvergne Report
Racing Metro Paris 28 - 11 LyonRacing Metro Paris vs Lyon Report
Bayonne 23 - 6 Brive
Oyonnax 40 - 27 Grenoble
Toulon 24 - 28 Stade FrancaisToulon vs Stade Francais Report
More Top 14 results
Currie Cup
Griquas 31 - 27 PumasGriquas vs Pumas Report
Cheetahs 30 - 30 SharksCheetahs vs Sharks Report
Lions 35 - 33 Western ProvinceLions vs Western Province Report
More Currie Cup results
ITM Cup
Bay Of Plenty 12 - 27 AucklandBay Of Plenty vs Auckland Report
Southland 36 - 34 Northland
More ITM Cup results
Aviva Premiership
Friday , September 12
Harlequins 0 - 39 SaracensHarlequins vs Saracens Report
More Aviva Premiership results
Guinness PRO12
Benetton Treviso 10 - 21 MunsterBenetton Treviso vs Munster Report
Newport Gwent D'gons 15 - 17 Ospreys
More Guinness PRO12 results
Aviva Premiership Table
PosTeamPPts
1Saracens29
2Bath29
3Leicester Tigers29
4Exeter26
5Northampton26