England set to turn to Tuilagi
August 25, 2011
Tuilagi is set to be paired alongside Mike Tindall in the England midfield © Getty Images
Martin Johnson is set to propose yet another new solution to England's problem positions on Thursday when he names Manu Tuilagi alongside Mike Tindall in the centres to play Ireland.
Jonny Wilkinson is expected to regain the fly-half jersey for England's final Rugby World Cup warm-up international, with Richard Wigglesworth at scrum-half. Johnson has been in charge for 33 Tests since his appointment as England team manager and he has now overseen the selection of 13 different centre combinations.
With England tackling Ireland just a fortnight before their World Cup campaign kicks off against Argentina, Johnson will hope to have finally struck gold. Tuilagi's Leicester coach Richard Cockerill said yesterday that England had to find a place for the blockbusting 20-year-old somewhere in the team.
"I think England have got to start him and, if he gets that opportunity, he could well be the star of the World Cup," Cockerill told BBC Sport. "For me, he'd have to start somewhere in the England side - whether that's 12 or 13, or he could even play on the wing.
"He gives you that bit of an X-factor, he will score a try from nothing, as you saw against Wales. It was the deciding factor in the game."
Tuilagi made a try-scoring debut for England in their opening World Cup warm-up victory over Wales at Twickenham three weeks ago.
"I want to get a start," said Tuilagi. "I just run hard at defenders and try to break them down. It is simple but it's effective really. I just have to keep training hard and hopefully get picked."
Joe Simpson will travel to New Zealand as England's third scrum-half and he is set to make his Test debut off the bench at the Aviva Stadium. James Haskell has been passed fit for selection after a precautionary scan on his foot revealed only mild inflammation to a tendon.
The 26-year-old has trained fully with the squad this week and will be in the running to start at open-side flanker, the position he played during England's title-winning Six Nations campaign.
Squad captain Lewis Moody is still recovering from a knee injury while England are hoping to give prop Andrew Sheridan and wing Chris Ashton their first action of the warm-up campaign. Johnson will confirm his line-up at lunchtime on Thursday.
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
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