By David Williams
England assistant coach Anthony Seibold sees Manu Tuilagi as a weapon in attack and defence as the powerful Sale centre prepares to make his comeback in Saturday’s clash with Wales.
Tuilagi missed the opening two games of the Guinness Six Nations to make his club comeback from a torn hamstring sustained in the autumn, but he was restored to Eddie Jones’ squad last week.
The 30-year-old is expected to be reunited with Henry Slade in midfield when Wales visit Twickenham on Saturday and Seibold feels he will bring brain as well as brawn to the back line.
‘On both sides of the ball he’s a powerful weapon. That’s been him for the last 10 or so years – him carrying the ball,’ England’s defence coach said.
But just as important, and if not more, is that contact around the defence he is very good.
You saw the first couple of actions against Harlequins the other day. That Sunday afternoon game he played the last 30 minutes and his first two or three shots in contact were dominant ones.
He brings a physical presence, there’s no doubt about that. He also brings a lot of experience and smarts in terms of what we’re trying to do from a system-perspective.
‘Coming back into camp, he’s got that personality and character that people get a lot of confidence from. It’s been great having him back in camp, there’s no doubt about that.’
Seibold joined Jones’ coaching team last autumn after a spell coaching in Australian rugby league where he came across a player with similar attributes to Tuilagi, who has been England’s most destructive carrier for the last decade.
Seibold added: ‘Manu’s a powerful athlete. The one that stands out as a comparison is David Fifita, who plays for the Gold Coast Titans and State of Origin for Queensland.
They’re very similar with regard to their physical attributes. Fifita plays as a back-rower in league, which is similar to playing 12 in union.
He’s the closest one I’ve come across – a powerful athlete like Manu. Manu is a real glue, there’s no doubt. He’s a really enjoyable guy to coach.’