Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 1 November 2014

All Blacks to target Tuilagi

Manu Tuilagi will start on the wing in the second Test

Manu Tuilagi has been warned to expect an aerial bombardment as New Zealand seek to expose the England wing's inexperience in his new position.

Tuilagi will start on the right flank outside centres Billy Twelvetrees and Luther Burrell when the tourists attempt to level the series at Forsyth Barr Stadium on Saturday.

It will be his first Test appearance in a role he last performed for Leicester in 2011 and there are question marks over his speed on the turn and aerial ability.

All Blacks fly-half Aaron Cruden has promised his Achilles heal will be targeted ruthlessly.

"Kicking to him would be an option we'll look at for sure," Cruden said.

"He's a natural midfielder who hasn't played much on the wing so we'll probably put a few up on him and test him early."

Tuilagi was England's most potent attacking weapon in the 20-15 defeat at Eden Park so moving him from his traditional position at outside centre is a gamble.

The 23-year-old caused panic in the All Blacks' defence throughout the first Test and is the player they fear most.

Cruden revealed the pressing issue of how to stop him in his tracks has been discussed.

"Manu is a real asset with the ball in hand and it gives us a fair bit of tackling practice when they throw him the ball and he charges into us," Cruden said.

"We'll probably bump into him whether he's on the wing or in midfield at some stage. He's really thick in the legs with big hips so tackling him is quite hard.

"When you're young you're taught to go low and drop them there but that doesn't seem to work against him so we'll try to nullify the momentum he gets in his carrying.

"We'll need to get up on him as quickly as possible while holding the integrity of our line and chop him as early as possible."

If Tuilagi is supplied with the correct ball, he is sure to flourish on the wing as an attacking force in a match England must win to take the series to a decider in Hamilton.

But despite head coach Stuart Lancaster's confidence in a positional switch that has been under consideration for at least six months, doubts persist that it could backfire.

"Manu's done a few high balls in training but the way we defend, our wingers will be up and the back field will be covered by number eight, 15, 10," Lancaster said.

"He's more than happy catching the high ball, there's no doubt about it. I'm sure some will come his way."

The All Blacks edged the first Test with a 78th-minute try from Conrad Smith enabling them to draw first blood in what is expected to be a tight series.

"We are very respectful of New Zealand and the way they closed out the game at Eden Park," Lancaster said.

"We did lots of good things but ultimately didn't win and New Zealand deserve huge credit for that.

"I'm sure they'll be better prepared and have more cohesion for this Test.

"They'll be a significantly better side this week so we need to be better also."

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