Manu Tuilagi thinks Aaron Mauger can help him excel at inside centre
Manu Tuilagi believes Leicester coach Aaron Mauger can help him command the full arsenal of skills to thrive at inside centre.
England boss Eddie Jones wants Leicester powerhouse Tuilagi to add finesse to his blunt force and shift from 13 to 12 in the Test arena.
Leicester's backs coach and former All Blacks centre Mauger has already talked of Tuilagi chasing the "triple threat", by adding first-rate kicking and distribution to his much-vaunted power game.
Tuilagi freely cites building his kicking confidence as his greatest current challenge, but remains adamant he can fulfil Jones' brief, especially with Mauger in his club corner.
"I think the kicking element is the biggest challenge at the moment, but it's also great to have a challenge like that," Tuilagi told Press Association Sport.
"But within the work at training it definitely makes it a lot easier.
"It's a matter of doing all your reps so that when it comes to the game it comes around naturally.
"So I think it's about putting in the hours and the shifts now, that hopefully can pay off further down the line."
Tuilagi's brief to bolster his skill-set has drawn widespread comparisons with All Blacks centre Ma'a Nonu, who added much guile over the years after bursting through courtesy of raw power.
The 24-year-old is finally back in match rhythm after 15 months sidelined with groin trouble and following a conviction for assaulting police officers.
The Samoa-born centre is comfortable with the Nonu comparisons, but insisted he will continue to be his own man, and not abandon the physical style that has made his name.
"I've got to stick to my strengths, but also I'm trying to add that kicking game in there as well," said Tuilagi, who stars at 12 in Leicester's Aviva Premiership clash with Gloucester on Saturday.
"You come up against plenty of different situations in the game, so I'm trying to work on my kicking and ball playing as well.
"With Mauger here it's helping a great deal.
"For me personally I'm just really enjoying being back and able to play after so long out with the groin problem.
"I really missed it, so I'm enjoying every minute being on the field, training and playing with Tigers and England.
"When you're injured for a long time you realise that it's easy to take being fit, healthy and playing for granted.
"Having Mauger come in, we're playing a lot of rugby now at Tigers, and obviously Eddie wants me to play at 12, but for me I think 12 and 13 are still similar positions.
"You can change around, even in set-piece, you can swap depending on what sort of play you want to run, and depending on the personnel as well.
"And having Mauger there, who played 12 to such a level, to guide me through it's a huge help for me.
"He was a smart player and he's a smart coach, so it's just about me learning from him and picking his brains.
"For me I'm just enjoying learning every day and trying to get better."
Tuilagi signed a new three-year deal with Leicester in December that spoke volumes about two-way trust between player and club after the 24-year-old's turbulent year.
That deal was completed with Tuilagi still in the grip of his groin problem, leaving the England star still keen to repay Leicester's faith.
"I'm very happy to be staying with Leicester for three more years," said Tuilagi, speaking at the Adidas rugby insiders better player event.
"I've been loyal to them and they've been loyal to me, it goes both ways.
"It's not a one-way street, so for me I'm very happy at Leicester and there's no point changing things if you're happy."
:: Manu Tuilagi was speaking at the Adidas rugby insiders better player event. For more information and to take part in future events visit www.adidasrugbyinsiders.co.uk or follow @adidasUK #rugbyinsiders