Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 20 August 2014

Emotional journey for Tuilagi

Manu Tuilagi has waited for his opportunity and against France on Saturday he is determined to take it

Manu Tuilagi goes into Saturday's RBS 6 Nations game against France with a point to prove after reclaiming his place in England's starting line-up.

The Leicester centre will reprise the midfield partnership with Brad Barritt that played such an integral role in England's record victory over world champions New Zealand on December 1. But since then, Tuilagi has been through a range of emotions - from the elation of victory through the anger of being labelled arrogant to the frustration of losing his place in the team.

"When I saw those quotes saying I was arrogant, I was shocked and angry," said Tuilagi, who had raced 50 metres to score against the All Blacks after picking off an interception. "I was just absolutely out on my feet. The play had been so fast that I just wanted to put the ball down."

Tuilagi was accused by former Australia coach Eddie Jones of being disrespectful for the way he finished his intercept try against the All Blacks at walking pace.

Then came the ankle injury which forced him to miss England's win against Scotland and restricted him to bench duty for the 12-6 triumph in Ireland, but Tuilagi has come through it all, he has waited for his opportunity and against France on Saturday he is determined to take it.

He added: "When Eddie Jones said that I was really angry. You can't just come out and say something like that. He doesn't know me."

Then came the injury and the frustration of watching Billy Twelvetrees make such an impressive debut against Scotland that he retained the jersey for the trip to Dublin.

"There was definitely a point when I thought it could take me some time to get back in," Tuilagi continued. "When you're out of the game it's really frustrating. It was great to see the guys perform really well when Billy came in - I just had to train really hard and wait for the opportunity."

Now he has it. Tuilagi has returned as one of the three changes to the England team from Dublin, Courtney Lawes starting at blindside flanker and Dylan Hartley taking over at hooker.

With their team selection, England have signalled their intent to be abrasive, physical and shut down the French attacking threats at source.

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