Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 19 April 2014

Flood backs Tuilagi at Test level

Manu Tuilagi

England fly-half Toby Flood is convinced his Leicester team-mate Manu Tuilagi has the temperament for Test match rugby.

Tuilagi, the Tigers centre, has been called into England's World Cup training squad despite still being banned for punching Chris Ashton in the Aviva Premiership semi-final. 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, as he said: "He has been outstanding. You could throw him into a Test match tomorrow. He wouldn't let it affect him."

He added: "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.

Last year 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 - and in August he could well pull on a Test jersey for the first time.

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