Big hitting Manu Tuilagi lining up All Blacks

22:00, Nov 29 2012
Manu Tuilagi
DOUBLE DOUBT: Manu Tuilagi's chances of making the Lions squad appear slim due to his Tongan heritage and his behaviour at the 2011 World Cup.

England's blockbusting centre Manu Tuilagi is realistic enough to know that facing Ma'a Nonu and Conrad Smith at Twickenham on Sunday will be more daunting than the All Blacks haka - but he's relishing both.

Samoan-born Tuilagi will line up against the All Blacks for the first time in an England team featuring just one change from the side pipped by the Springboks last weekend.

Owen Farrell comes in at first five for the injured Toby Flood. Lock Courtney Lawes and backup No 10 Freddie Burns are the newcomers on the bench.

"I'm very excited. It will be the first time I have played against the All Blacks and I just can't wait to play," Tuilagi told the Daily Mail, adding that fronting the haka would be a highlight.

"We will just stand up there and smile. It's a great tradition for rugby and for New Zealand but all you can do is respect it and accept the challenge they're putting in front of you."

He knows the biggest challenge in front of him comes from the direct approach of the All Blacks midfield with their power, deception and pace.


"Playing New Zealand is exciting whoever is wearing that All Black shirt, but to come up against the likes of Ma'a Nonu and Conrad Smith would be the ultimate challenge as a centre," Tuilagi said.

Tuilagi made a big impact at last year's World Cup with his aggressive game and has quickly accumulated 16 test caps.

He emphasised the confidence in the English camp despite successive losses to Australia and South Africa. He believed they had a good shot of upsetting the All Blacks who were at the end of a long, draining season.

"They're coming to the end of their tour and will be tired," he suggested, perhaps with more hope than conviction.

This test also represents the end of England's 2012 campaign and they want some positives to take into the looming Six Nations tournament in the new year.

"It is very important to finish on a high," said the 21-year-old. "To get a win against New Zealand, the best team in the world, that would be a dream ending for us and it would be a great way to get the momentum going again heading into the Six Nations."

Tuilagi said there was a determination in the England camp to get across the line against the All Blacks after their tight losses over the last fortnight. He said there was a good feeling in training.

"It feels a little bit better than last week, but we're frustrated still. We went toe to toe with the second best team in the world, but we don't want to be a team that is satisfied by losing by one point, we want to get that win and we couldn't ask for a better team to get it against than New Zealand.

"The last two games have been really frustrating, we've played really well but just haven't finished the opportunities we have created. But we have been working really hard on that in training and now we have a great challenge in front of us to try and put that right. 

"We've looked at the video (of the South Africa game) and we believe we played very well. We fronted up, we were disciplined, we were strong at the breakdown and at the scrum. We just need to keep on doing those things well and improve against the All Blacks.

"All the boys are looking forward to it. We have got a chance to show that we can beat the best side in the world."

England: Alex Goode, Chris Ashton, Manusamoa Tuilagi, Brad Barritt, Mike Brown, Owen Farrell, Ben Youngs, Ben Morgan, Chris Robshaw, Tom Wood, Geoff Parling, Joe Launchbury, Dan Cole, Tom Youngs,  Alex Corbisiero. Reserves: David Paice, David Wilson, Mako Vunipola, Courtney Lawes, James Haskell, Danny Care, Freddie Burns, Jonathan Joseph.