Flood backs Tuilagi to keep cool
June 21, 2011
Tuilagi looks set to make his England debut in August but question marks remain over his big-game temperament © Getty Images
England's Toby Flood believes his Leicester team-mate Manu Tuilagi is mature enough to feature for England at the Rugby World Cup.
Tuilagi has been called into England's World Cup training squad despite still being banned for punching Chris Ashton in the Tigers' Aviva Premiership semi-final victory over Northampton. The 20-year-old apologised for losing his cool but many felt the five-week suspension, which ends on Thursday, was lenient for a three-punch combination which left Ashton requiring stitches.
Tuilagi, the youngest brother from the Samoan rugby dynasty, was the Premiership's discovery of the year and Flood believes he is ready to be chucked in at the deep end. "He has been outstanding," Flood told Press Association Sport. "You could throw him into a Test match tomorrow. He wouldn't let it affect him. He might make a couple of mistakes but he would also do some fantastic things. He is really dynamic in the back line.
"He has a good structure around him, his family has an incredible heritage in the game and he keeps himself to himself. He is a quiet young man and he has handled himself very well this season. The good thing is he is English so we don't need to worry about playing against him!"
Tuilagi's four elder brothers all played for Samoa but he has lived in Leicester since the age of 13 and committed his international future to England. The most recent campaign was Tuilagi's breakthrough season in the Premiership but he also had to fight the prospect of deportation after it emerged he had first entered the country on a six-month holiday visa. The local Leicester MP took up Tuilagi's case and he was eventually granted indefinite leave to remain in England.
England face Wales on August 6 and Tuilagi could well pull on a Test jersey for the first time against their age old rivals in what will be a high-pressure environment. "The more involvement he has with the England set-up, the more confident he will get and the more knowledge he will get in terms of the game and emotional management," said Flood. "He is learning from guys who have 60 or 70 Tests and I have no doubt he will step up."
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