Manu Tuilagi: ‘Deception’ the key to unlocking England centre’s qualities

Colin Newboult

Fly-half George Ford has hinted that England failed to make best use of Manu Tuilagi’s ability during their disappointing Autumn Nations Series campaign.

Eddie Jones’ men struggled in November, securing just one victory in four matches.

That was despite the presence of Tuilagi, who has been a linchpin in the side when fit.

The Sale Sharks midfield powerhouse was making his England return after missing the Six Nations and July Tests with Australia, but he struggled to make an impact.

Ford played with the 31-year-old at Leicester Tigers and they will also link up at Sale when the pivot returns from injury in early January.

Impossible to tackle

“Manu needs deception around him. He needs to get the ball when he’s not the only option to get the ball, he needs to have other people around him so you can create a one-on-one for him,” the playmaker said.

“If you create a one-on-one for Manu, or half a shoulder for Manu, he’s impossible to tackle pretty much. Also, it’s about how we can get Manu with time, with space, and with those opportunities in phase play, not just off a set-piece.

“You can design a play off a set-piece but you need to get Manu with the ball in his hands when it is a little bit more unstructured, when he can get the ball in a channel and he’s got a one-on-one.

“Again, that’s a lot of deception, that’s not just giving it to Manu and ‘there you go, take the whole team on’. It’s about your team mindset and philosophy.”

Ford sustained a serious injury during Leicester’s Premiership final triumph over Saracens in June, rupturing his Achilles in the 15-12 victory at Twickenham.

It has therefore delayed his Sharks debut but the pivot has put the enforced absence to good use by acting as an extra coach.

Time to refresh

“My mindset has been thinking I am not injured. I know that sounds a funny thing to say, but this has been an opportunity,” he added.

“Since making my debut at 16 or 17 – I am 29 now – I have had 12 years of rugby and I have been lucky enough not to have had a long-term injury and maybe this is the time I needed to refresh and come back a better player.

“When you have got an injury like this you are starting from ground zero and building your way back again in terms of foundations and when you are week to week and season to season, you never have time to do that.”

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