LONDON – Head coach Eddie Jones has cited Manu Tuilagi’s display in England’s 2012 win over New Zealand as one of the reasons why he has handed the hulking centre a recall.
Tuilagi, 26, starred in England’s 38-21 defeat of New Zealand in 2012, but has played just 20 minutes of Test rugby since Jones became head coach in December 2015 due to a succession of serious injuries.
The Leicester man has been named in a 37-man training squad, and Jones is hopeful that if England and the All Blacks cross paths at the 2019 World Cup, Tuilagi will be ready for battle.
“I caught up with Manu before the tour (to Argentina in June). We went to a cafe in Leicester,” Jones told a press conference at Twickenham on Friday.
“We’re confident he’s moving in the right direction, but he’s still a hell of a long way away from playing Test rugby. We’ll just have a look at him at the camp and take it from there. I’ve got no idea where he is really until we see him.
“But I do know he can demolish the All Blacks, so he’s worth time, he’s worth effort and worth a lot of care. Manu’s just got to get fit and healthy.”
Eight of England’s British and Irish Lions players have been left out of the three-day training camp in south-west London.
Jones said he would be happy to rest players in England’s November Tests against Argentina, Australia and Samoa.
Discussing the importance of having back-up options, he also mischievously suggested back-to-back world champions New Zealand lack depth in their squad, making them “more vulnerable”.
“The next 18 months is crucial in us finalising our World Cup squad,” Jones said. “We’re probably 75 percent down the road. So that other 25 percent, we’ve got greater competition and greater depth.
“Just look at how important depth is in world rugby. New Zealand, for probably the first time ever probably, are experiencing some problems with their depth.
“There are definitely some gaps in New Zealand’s team they didn’t previously have.
“I think they’ll fix it, but it certainly makes them more vulnerable than they were before, and we saw that in the Lions series.”