England: Eddie Jones admits Manu Tuilagi’s workload is being managed

David Skippers
Manu Tuilagi and Eddie Jones England training 2021 - PA.jpg

England head coach Eddie Jones insists that Manu Tuilagi is being managed carefully through a tough autumn programme after the powerful Sale centre was named on the replacements bench for Saturday’s Test with Japan.

Tuilagi’s spot at outside centre has been taken by rookie Guy Porter as part of five changes to England’s starting line-up after their 30-29 loss to Argentina on Sunday.

With tougher tests against the All Blacks and Springboks also on England‘s Autumn Nations Series schedule, Jones is limiting the workload of his most explosive player in the hope of preventing his injury curse from striking again.

Before making his comeback against Los Pumas, Tuilagi missed a year of Test rugby due to hamstring and knee problems – the latest in a history of lengthy stints on the sidelines.

Preserving Tuilagi’s fitness

Jones acknowledged there is an element of experimentation involved in preserving the centre’s fitness knowing he will be a crucial for England at next year’s World Cup.

“It’s all about workload. We’ve given him a lighter week of training. He’ll still be able to finish for us,” Jones said.

“We just feel that with Manu’s injury record, to play four big games in a row is probably not in his best interests at the moment.

“Whenever you’ve got a powerful player with soft tissue injuries, you’ve got to experiment a little bit.

“It’s about what’s the right training load, what’s the right kind of training, what’s the right rehabilitation, what’s the right recovery?

“You can’t go to a textbook and look up: ‘Chapter one – difficult players to manage’. There’s just no textbook for it, so it’s a matter of experimentation.

“It’s a matter of cohesion between the staff here and at Sale, the medical staff and strength and conditioning staff, and I think that’s being done really well.

“We’ve got him in a good position now, he played 60-odd minutes against Japan, he trained with us yesterday (Wednesday) and did most of the training.

“He’s in a really good spot, he looks lean, he looks healthy and we’ll get a good result from him off the bench.”

Billy Vunipola has also been dropped to the bench with Jones explaining that Japan’s fast paced style of play makes the more dynamic Sam Simmonds a better option to start at number eight for England.

“It’s just a change in roles between Sam and Billy. Sam’s got good pace, which is particularly important against Japan, so we feel that he will be suited to the start of the game,” Jones said.

In other backline changes, Jack van Poortvliet displaces Leicester Tigers team-mate Ben Youngs at scrum-half while Jonny May, who has overcome a dislocated elbow, takes over from Joe Cokanasiga on the left wing.

The final change sees David Ribbans coming in to make his debut in the second-row in place of Northampton team-mate Alex Coles, who won his first cap last weekend.

Jones facing familiar foes

Jones coached Japan to a successful 2015 World Cup before taking over the England reins and expects a tough challenge from the Brave Blossoms at Twickenham on Saturday.

“Japan are a good team. They have the luxury of having long preparations and I’ve been the benefactor of that,” he said.

“I think the most cohesive teams in the world in the way they play are Ireland and Japan. They’ve almost got a sixth sense between their players because they practise so much together.”

READ MORE: England: Jack van Poortvliet, Sam Simmonds and Guy Porter start as Ben Youngs, Billy Vunipola and Manu Tuilagi drop to the bench