World Cup – Rampaging Manu Tuilagi gets all fired up to lead England to unconvincing victory over Tonga
Manu Tuilagi has revealed that staring down Tonga’s haka inspired his rampaging display in a 35-3 victory that launched England’s World Cup in unconvincing fashion.
Tuilagi stormed over for two first-half tries to indicate he will be Eddie Jones’s most potent attacking weapon in Japan, having finally overcome four injury-blighted years.
The 28-year-old of Samoan heritage took pride from facing his fellows Islanders as they performed their ritual challenge just before kick-off.
“It’s where I’m from. It’s a privilege to stand in front of the Tongan war dance,” Tuilagi said.
“It was brilliant. It definitely fired us all up for that game. It definitely fired me up watching that. It was good to be standing in front of it. It’s an unbelievable experience.
“I haven’t done that before. I’ve only played Fiji before – the Cibi – but the first time against Tonga was unreal.”
Tuilagi’s ability to scatter defenders was the highlight of an underwhelming performance that saw bonus points secured with just three minutes left.
“We got the five points we needed, now we can move on and focus on the USA,” Tuilagi said.
“There were some small mistakes and some discipline to tidy up. Just little bits, but important bits. We’ll put it right.
“For me there is still a lot to learn from that game, but we will learn from it and put it bed and then all the focus will be on the USA. I hope there will be more to come.”
Tuilagi’s display not surprisingly earned glowing praise from his head coach.
“Manu’s increasingly getting close to his best,” said Jones. “He’s training well and is in great physical nick. He enjoys being around the boys.
“The boys love playing with him and for a Samoan to play against Tongan it’s a pretty special occasion. Manu will only get better as the tournament goes on.”
Tonga captain Siale Piutau started opposite Tuilagi and acknowledged that his strength was too much to handle.
“Manu was instrumental for them. We knew they’d go to him for their go forward and he did that,” Piutau said.
“We tried to contain him but when you have someone of Manu’s talent that gives you gainline, it helps get your forwards into the game.”