2011 could be the year Andy Murray breaks his Grand Slam duck, it could be the year David Haye finally exchanges pleasantries with one of the Klitschkos, and it is the year New Zealand will host the sixth Rugby Union World Cup within the professional era.
Many excited eyes will be gleaming at the all-complete, all-conquering All Blacks, to the rampaging-megatron machine that are the Springboks, to the road-running Australian mavericks to lift the Web Elis trophy in late October.
Whilst the top-dogs in the Southern Hemisphere have all been lighting the rugby world on fire, the 2003 World Champions England have slowly but surely accumulated a squad that possesses an international class spine, with a potentially world class end product. Several players have sonic-boomed through the ranks over the past year and have attained the tag of ‘will be world class’ – Chris Ashton, Ben Foden, Ben Youngs and Courtney Lawes to name but a few. Most positions have cemented a successful status, but the one area that has yet to convince are the centre pairings that England have Rubik’s-Cubed with in the last two years. There may however be an answer to this unsolved conundrum; 19 year old Leicester Tigers wonder kid Manu Tuilagi.
Standing at 6’1 high – 105kg wide, Manu is the youngest of the Tuilagi dynasty and was born in Samoa, but developed his life skills and rugby artistry in the UK. Launching himself through the ranks at Leicester Tigers he has represented England at U16, U18 and U20 level. Facetiously, the Tigers have been grateful to even have his services to this day after the Home Office threatened to deport him in the summer. Leicester, the RFU and three MPs came to his aid and with a work permit secured, Tuilagi has been quick to repay the Tigers for their endeavours, scoring five tries already this season.
Tuilagi has not just stamped his mark on the Aviva Premiership this season, he has assaulted the scene with a Godzilla-esque path of destruction. Manu possesses the exciting combination of strong, powerful running, a ferocious defence, mixed with the most subtle of passing skills and incredible running lines.
Is Manu Tuilagi the finished article that will consistently provide world class performances? Absolutely not. Will Martin Johnson be bold enough to take the Tigers prodigy to the world cup? Hopefully. Manu Tuilagi could generate the same hype and excitement as Sonny Bill Williams has in New Zealand, and if England came a-calling, he’d be ready.
Til next week,