Six Nations

Jones backs Te'o and Tuilagi to shine against Italy

2019-03-08 14:37
Manu Tuilagi (AFP)

London - England coach Eddie Jones will unleash a powerful midfield pairing of Ben Te'o and Manu Tuilagi against perennial Six Nations strugglers Italy at Twickenham on Saturday as he explores his options ahead of this year's World Cup.

It will be the first time the two dynamic ball-carriers, who both have Pacific Islands heritage, have started a Test together, with Henry Slade dropped to the bench to accommodate Tuilagi's move to outside centre and Teo's return.

This season has seen Tuilagi make his first Six Nations start in six years after a miserable run of injuries, with the Leicester midfielder in the starting XV for all three of England's previous matches - including the 21-13 defeat by Wales in Cardiff a fortnight ago that scuppered their hopes of a Grand Slam.

"They're both very good players," said Jones, who has also recalled powerhouse right wing Joe Cokanasiga.

The Australian was especially excited by how Tuilagi had coped with opposing speedy England wing Jonny May in training.

"Manu is really starting to come back to where he can be," insisted Jones. "In training, Jonny May went to go around him and Manu rounded him up. I haven't seen that sort of acceleration from Manu for a long time."

Jones said an overtly physical midfield would be important against Italy, for all they have yet to beat England in 24 attempts and are also on a 20-game overall losing streak in the Six Nations.

"In certain games it's massively important, when maybe you're not getting fast ruck ball and the only way to get through the line is by smashing through it," added the former Wallaby and Japan boss.

"Maybe it's going to be that sort of game on Saturday. Italy are a difficult opponent."

Meanwhile Jones tried to put the Wales defeat in context by saying it was part of England's evolution.

"The great thing about rugby is you never get there, you are always striving to get there," he said.

"You are climbing up Mount Everest and you never get to the top, you are always trying to get there and sometimes you slip down a bit."

It was a view endorsed by England captain Owen Farrell, who insisted he had not been distracted by recent newspaper allegations that he and his club Saracens, the English champions, had broken Premiership salary-cap regulations.

"We're just concentrating on what's in front of us," said the flyhalf. "We're all part of a team that wants to bring more out of ourselves and also enjoy what we are doing."

England were embarrassed by Italy coach Conor O'Shea's 'no ruck' ploy during an eventual 36-15 win at Twickenham two years ago, with Jones decidedly unimpressed.

The memory clearly rankled judging by his comment on Thursday that "when Italy are allowed to play rugby they are a good team".

But Jones lauded an Italy back-row featuring No 8 great Sergio Parisse and also hailed centres Michele Campagnaro and Luca Morisi as "good strong, dynamic players" before saying scrum-half Tito Telbadi "played like he was playing for his life against Ireland".

Victory for Italy, 60/1 rank outsiders to win this weekend, would be the greatest upset in Six Nations history.

They have though been bolstered by the return of skipper Parisse, fit following the concussion that saw him miss the 26-16 defeat by Ireland a fortnight ago - a match the Azzurri led 16-12 at half-time.

"This is an Italy team that's preparing to win" insisted O'Shea. "Everybody thinks we're delusional. But we're sports people, we're competitive people.

"The big thing is to get the confidence to win and get the energy that comes with that," the former Ireland full-back added.

"We have to dust ourselves down every time and come back. This is a massive ask but I can't wait for this weekend."

Kick-off is at 18:45 (SA time) on Saturday.



15 Elliot Daly, 14 Joe Cokanasiga, 13 Manu Tuilagi, 12 Ben Te'o, 11 Jonny May, 10 Owen Farrell (captain), 9 Ben Youngs, 8 Billy Vunipola, 7 Tom Curry, 6 Brad Shields, 5 George Kruis, 4 Joe Launchbury, 3 Kyle Sinckler, 2 Jamie George, 1 Ellis Genge

Substitutes: 16 Luke Cowan-Dickie, 17 Ben Moon, 18 Dan Cole, 19 Nathan Hughes, 20 Mark Wilson, 21 Dan Robson, 22 George Ford, 23 Henry Slade


15 Jayden Hayward; 14 Edoardo Padovani, 13 Luca Morisi, 12 Michele Campagnaro, 11 Angelo Esposito; 10 Tommaso Allan, 9 Tito Tebaldi, 8 Sergio Parisse (captain), 7 Braam Steyn, 6 Sebastian Negri, 5 Dean Budd, 4 Federico Ruzza, 3 Simone Ferrari, 2 Luca Bigi, 1 Andrea Lovotti

Substitutes: Leonardo Ghiraldini, Cherif Traore, Tiziano Pasquali, David Sisi, Jake Polledri, Guglielmo Palazzani, Ian McKinley, Tommaso Castello

Read more on:    england  |  italy  |  six nations  |  ben te'o  |  eddie jones  |  manu tuilagi  |  rugby


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