Second Test: England move Manu Tuilagi to the wing to face New Zealand in Dunedin
Last Updated: 12/06/14 8:39am
England have moved Manu Tuilagi to the wing for the second Test against New Zealand in Dunedin on Saturday as fit-again Gloucester centre Billy Twelvetrees and Northampton’s Luther Burrell return to midfield.
Leicester’s Tuilagi, 23, starred for the tourists in the opening 20-15 defeat in Auckland and coach Stuart Lancaster chose to go with all three touring centres by moving him to the right wing and restoring the successful Six Nations partnership of Twelvetrees and Burrell.
Moving Tuilagi on to the right wing opposite the prolific Julian Savea, who has recovered from a knee problem, is a brave but exciting decision that has been under consideration for the past six to 10 months.
The 23-year-old last filled the position for Leicester in 2011 and was conspicuous as England's most potent attacking force in the 20-15 defeat at Eden Park from his accustomed position at 13.
With victory at Forsyth Barr Stadium on Saturday essential to set up a series decider in Hamilton, the timing of the change is risky, but Lancaster is convinced it will work.
Lancaster said: "Yeah I’ve seen (Manu) play there as an age-group player coming through and he was outstanding.
"Clearly it’s a big step for him but he’s been great in training this week. It’s an exciting backline from our point of view, we’ve got the balance of power and pace, lots of bold players in there, physicality, and I think from our point of view it’s something we’ve wanted to look at for a while and I think now is the chance to do it.
"It’s just as an option really, he’s a world-class 13, we’re not going to pick him there every week from now on, there’ll still be lots of times when he plays 13 for us but going into this game, we just think it’s the right time to have a look.
"Luther Burrell played really, really well in the Six Nations; Luther’s got a physicality of his own, he’s got great distribution, and he gives that power to the back line that we’ve been looking for.
Twelvetrees has recovered from the ankle problem he suffered at the end of the Aviva Premiership season while Burrell returns after helping Northampton win the play-off final against Saracens.
Harlequins scrum-half Danny Care, who also missed the first of the three Tests with a shoulder injury, is restored at the expense of Ben Youngs, who drops to the bench after struggling in the Eden Park intensity.
Saracens No 10 Owen Farrell also returns alongside Care at half-back while Lancaster keeps faith with seven of the scrum who gave the All Blacks pack such a hard time in the first Test with Northampton captain Tom Wood the only change for the unlucky James Haskell of Wasps, who drops out of the 23 completely.
Lancaster added: "(Rob Webber, Ben Morgan, Geoff Parling) All deserved it, I mean it’s hard to argue that other players didn’t deserve it but I think the context of their selection is a bit more about their contribution in the first half and going into the second half. Geoff has certainly got the lineout experience that we’re looking for."
Harlequins skipper Chris Robshaw will again lead the side and he said: "I’m extremely excited. These are guys who have put their hand up in previous tournaments and stuff and really delivered – so we’ve got no doubt that they’ll come in and give that extra bit of energy and that extra bit of spice and really encourage the other guys.
"But everyone has got to really put their hand up whether they played last week or haven’t played in a while, and we’ve really got to raise the intensity.
"As a squad we’re in a good place, when you look at the guys last week who potentially haven’t played in a while, everyone put their hand up and was a real viable option. We know the challenge, we know the marker has been laid down.
"England are very much (an 80 minute team). We back ourselves and what we’re about. "
Northampton duo Dylan Hartley and Courtney Lawes and Saracens pair Billy Vunipola, and Chris Ashton come on to the bench after being rested in Auckland after their Premiership final exertions.
England: 15 Mike Brown, 14 Manu Tuilagi, 13 Luther Burrell, 12 Billy Twelvetrees, 11 Marland Yarde, 10 Owen Farrell, 9 Danny Care, 1 Joe Marler, 2 Rob Webber,3 David Wilson, 4 Joe Launchbury, 5 Geoff Parling, 6 Tom Wood, 7 Chris Robshaw (c), 8 Ben Morgan.
Replacements: 16 Dylan Hartley, 17 Matt Mullan, 18 Kieran Brookes, 19 Courtney Lawes, 20 Billy Vunipola, 21 Ben Youngs, 22 Freddie Burns, 23 Chris Ashton.
Tune in to Sky Sports 1 on Saturday morning to see if England can keep the series alive. The second Test is live, and coverage begins at 8am