Manu Tuilagi keen to soak up what may be his final Rugby World Cup
Manu Tuilagi is determined to enjoy the World Cup in Japan in belief that it will probably be his last attempt at lifting the Webb Ellis Trophy.
Eddie Jones is likely to restore Tuilagi to England’s midfield for Saturday’s crucial Pool C clash with Argentina after watching the powerful Leicester centre batter Tonga into submission 10 days ago.
At 28-years-old, the player dubbed ‘Chief’ by his team-mates doubts he will still be a force when the next global showpiece is staged in France in 2023.
When asked if has another World Cup in him, Tuilagi said: “Probably not. I’ll be too old. I feel it!
“I would say I enjoy it more now. I enjoy it more than before. I know that it’s not going to last forever, that it’s not going to last very long, so I’ve got to enjoy the moment while it is here.”
Tuilagi endured years of injury misery, a complicated groin condition the most serious in a succession of setbacks that threatened to end his career and restricted him to two replacements appearances between 2014 and 2018.
Reintegrated back into the team carefully by Jones, he is now a major weapon in England’s bid to win the World Cup for only the second time.
And Tuilagi’s change in mindset has been instrumental to his revival with a professional approach to preparation replacing the care-free attitude that once ruled.
“I don’t feel like the old me and I could never be the old me again. It’s different now,” Tuilagi said.
“The old me used to just go out and play and train. Now I need to warm up for 30 minutes before I start.”
England defence coach John Mitchell believes Tuilagi is thriving because of the new approach taken to his conditioning combined with the natural maturing process.
“Chief – we call him Chief and it’s a nickname that he’s enjoyed over the year – has a real presence,” Mitchell said.
“He looks like he has real strength and belief in us and in himself and you can feel there’s a bit of unfinished business in his mentality.
“He’s a difficult tackle for anyone and he can spook players through his defensive pressure. If he gets you man and ball it’s not that comfortable for the attack.
“He has gained belief because he is prepared really well. He has had a long pre-season and he has been specifically prepared based on himself and his previous limitations through injury.
“He’s also older now, he’s also a father and happily married so that brings responsibilities and a different maturity as well.
“He’s in a particularly good space because he is being managed well, he is being led well which then leads to his own leadership taking ownership of it.
“He is just that much older. He’s obviously been through a few rugby movies in his time and this stage doesn’t always come around.”