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Joseph rues Tuilagi absence

Published 21/05/2015

Jonathan Joseph, pictured, believes Manu Tuilagi's absence will dent England's World Cup plans
Jonathan Joseph, pictured, believes Manu Tuilagi's absence will dent England's World Cup plans

Jonathan Joseph has admitted Manu Tuilagi's Test exile for assaulting police officers is "upsetting" to England's World Cup plans.

England banned Tuilagi until January last week after he was convicted at Leicester Magistrates Court of two counts of assaulting female police officers.

Bath centre Joseph could prove the chief beneficiary of Tuilagi's absence, his claims to the number 13 shirt intensifying now the Leicester wrecking ball is out of the equation.

Former London Irish star Joseph set any personal gain aside, however, to accept England consider it "a massive shame" to approach their home World Cup without one of their chief attacking weapons.

"I think it's a big loss for us," said Joseph of Tuilagi's World Cup ban.

"Manu's a lovely guy and a great player, and what's happened is a massive shame.

"England unfortunately suffer for that.

"But there's great competition in the centres, it opens up another window for someone else.

"So I think it is upsetting and he'll be massively disappointed in what he's done.

"But in terms of England there is a lot of competition for the centre spot and a lot of boys will be putting their hands up."

England head coach Stuart Lancaster omitted Tuilagi from his 50-man World Cup training squad on Wednesday as promised, handing Wasps' Elliot Daly a promotion in his stead.

Tuilagi has battled severe groin problems since October and was still facing a fitness battle for the World Cup in any case.

The Samoa-born battering ram's injury woes opened the Test door for Joseph this term, and Bath's fleet-footed midfielder has seized his opportunity without a second glance.

Joseph's pace and defence-splitting abilities have proved central to Bath's run to the Aviva Premiership play-offs, with the West Country men hosting Leicester in Saturday's semi-final at The Recreation Ground.

Leicester have reached the league play-offs for the 11th consecutive campaign, while Bath are back in the knockout stages for the first time in five years.

The Tigers have dominated professionalism's early onset, but Joseph believes victory over their traditional rivals could help Bath usher in a new era of control.

"I think if we were to win it could be the start of us maybe dominating," said Joseph.

"I think it's a tricky one, Leicester have been a great side for a long time now, and Bath did fall off it a little bit in that time.

"I think this season we've proved to the majority that we're a great side.

"And if we get it right on the day - we put the Bath way onto teams - we can be very effective in what we do.

"This weekend's going to be a great match, they are going to come down and throw the kitchen sink at us.

"We've just got to stay composed and do what we've done week in, week out - just prepare well, the best we can, and hopefully feel good come Saturday.

"It's massively exciting that we could be on the edge of something big.

"This is the first semi-final I'll have been involved in, and this week there's a massive buzz around the club."

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