We have noticed you are using an ad blocker
To continue providing news and award winning journalism, we rely on advertising revenue.
To continue reading, please turn off your ad blocker or whitelist us.
Eddie Jones believes Manu Tuilagi can be England's version of former New Zealand centre Ma'a Nonu in among "four or five" world-class players in his Six Nations squad. The Leicester Tigers man is among a throng of players to return to the international fold after missing the Rugby World Cup but is not expected to be available until the fourth Championship match against Wales.
Tuilagi, who has not played for England since June 2014, missed the showcase tournament after pleading guilty to assaulting police officers last year. He is joined by fellow-returnees Dylan Hartley and Chris Ashton in the 33-man squad which has seen 10 players ditched from the World Cup.
Jones has also called up seven uncapped players in Josh Beaumont, Jack Clifford, Elliot Daly, Ollie Devoto, Sam Hill, Paul Hill and Maro Itoje in a much-changed squad looking to win the Six Nations for the first time since 2011. Despite having officially been in charge for just over a month and with only seven training sessions to prepare for the opener against Scotland on 6 February, Jones has wasted little time identifying the man to build England's new era around.
"I think he [Tuilagi] can play both [12 and 13]," he said. "I think he can, when fit, develop into a Ma'a Nonu type of player. He has got exceptional skill base, exceptional feet and the ability to carry the ball through the line. He's got a short passing game now. I think he can be on the guys the team can be built around.
"I am clear in my mind what sort of player I want in each of those positions and I have tried to select in that way. I want a 12 who can take the ball through the line. His primary job is to straighten the attack; it was 30 years ago, it was 10 years ago, it still is now.
"They straighten the attack by running straight and sometimes they've got take contact, other times they've got to pass, other times they've got to kick. We've got two guys who can do that. We're reasonably well set-up, obviously Manu will be a key player for us at 12 but we've got to do with what we can."
Since being confirmed as Lancaster's successor, Jones has maintained England have the talent to rise to the summit of global rugby again. This view has been backed up by a belief that his current squad, which also includes Chris Robshaw, Anthony Watson and George Ford, has a handful of potentially "world class" individuals.
"I have no doubt that in this squad of 33 there are four or five players who if they change their mindset and change their attitude they become world class players," the former Japan and Saracens coach said. "Now if we get four or five world class players then we can be a dominant team in the world – that is what it takes.
"Why hasn't England been dominant since 2003? Because they've not had those players. If you go back to 2003 when I was coaching Australia against Sir Clive Woodward you had [Will] Greenwood at centre, [Jonny] Wilkinson at 10, [Lawrence] Dallagio at eight, [Richard] Hill at six, [Martin] Johnson at five.
"They were guys who changed games of rugby and England hasn't had those players. Our job is to develop those players and if we do the side will come through. There are enough hard-working players here but to be a dominant team in the world you have to be more than good and hard working."