Inside the Tigers’ Den - Tuilagi left stranded on the wing

Manu Tuilagi in action for Leicester Tigers against Saracens. Photo: Tiger Images EMN-141205-140343001
Manu Tuilagi in action for Leicester Tigers against Saracens. Photo: Tiger Images EMN-141205-140343001

Stuart Lancaster has done a lot right since he became England head coach but his bizarre selection decisions cost England a chance at making history at the weekend.

England lost the second Test in Dunedin on Saturday by just a single point in the end, scoring late in the day through replacement Chris Ashton to bring the score to a respectable 28-27 .

In truth England were great for the first half and then very poor for 20 minutes after the break in which time the World Champions ran in three tries to blow a cagey affair out of the water.

In the first Test Leicester Tigers’ centre Manu Tuilagi was the most devastating player on the pitch, causing havoc with every powerful burst through the centre.

He made the most metres out of anyone on the field and he shackled two of the best centres in the world, Conrad Smith and Ma’a Nonu, for the majority of the encounter.

So after having one of his best games for England, against the toughest team on the planet Lancaster opted to play him on the wing. A move he has been rumoured to want to make for some time.

The experiment did not work.

Playing Tuilagi on the wing is like having Lionel Messi in your team playing him at centre back. Yes he can do a job but it is a waste of god given talent.

To his credit Tuilagi did not let himself down in anyway. It was a concern to many that he did does not have the aerial skills or kicking game to play the position and while that is perhaps true he adequately dealt with everything thrown at him on Saturday.

But that is not the point - the point is he was peripheral figure in a side that really just need to get the ball into his hands as regularly as possible because he makes things happen.

With the centres having a poor day the ball rarely got wide anyway and when it did Tuilagi was well marked by the equally powerful Julian Savea.

Perhaps Lancaster has watched the likes of Savea, who has scored 20 tries in 21 Tests, and Manu’s older brother Alesana, causing chaos down the wing with their size. But Tuilagi is a centre. And a world class one at that.

Lancaster also said it was a case of getting all his best players into one side, a problem the British Lions often have to contend with but playing your talisman out of position is no way to and make a piece of history in New Zealand.

Fortunately injury may just force Lancaster into making a good decision.

After a physical and feriously fast paced match with the All Blacks both sides have been totting up the injuries.

Danny Care, Owen Farrell are both doubtful meaning the Tigers duo of Youngs and Burns could get another go at New Zealand.

More importantly both Twelvetrees and Burrell have both picked up knocks to their ankles which could rule them out of a recall in the centres.

Many would say that their form was worthy of being dropped anyway, with former Leicester inside centre Twelvetrees having a particularly poor game.

The Gloucester man continually looked to make near impossible passes and was made to pay for his inability to do so on at least one occasion.

The good news is that Kyle Eastmond looks likely to involved on Saturday after being left out of the midweek team to face Super 15 side Canterbury Crusaders in Christ Church.

It is not all doom and gloom however. England have lost the series but they are really proving themselves to be a side able to stand toe-to-toe with the best in the game.

Once again the pack put in a herculean display with Leicester lock Geoff Parling the best forward on the pitch for much of the encounter.

The British and Irish Lion had retained his starting place despite Courtney Lawes being available after a stunning performance last week. He matched it again on Saturday tackling his heart out for the cause.

It would be a surprising and cruel stroke of he was not involved in the starting side again.

His club colleague Ed Slater had a big job to do on Tuesday, leading the England midweek team against the Crusaders.

The uncapped lock

It was successful week for other Tigers on international duty at the weekend.

American winger Blaine Scully was on the losing team when the Eagle took on Japan but he scored three great tries in the match, showing brilliant pace to finish in the corner.

Samoan prop Logo Mulipola was involved in his sides 15-0 win over Italy and Leicester’s new recruits Leonardo Ghiraldini and Robert Barbieri.