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Dublin: 11°C Wednesday 23 September 2020

Ben Kay: England missing 'X-Factor' Tuilagi

Give the Leicester centre an arm to run at and he WILL break the tackle, says the RTE pundit.

Tuilagi leaves Richie McCaw and Aaron Smith in his wake.
Tuilagi leaves Richie McCaw and Aaron Smith in his wake.
Image: Tim Ireland/PA Wire/Press Association Images

ENGLAND’S WORLD CUP-WINNING lock Ben Kay believes the omission of Manu Tuilagi is a safety-first decision from coach Stuart Lancaster.

The Leicester centre has been named on the bench for this afternoon’s Six Nations clash at the Aviva Stadium after missing last weekend’s win over Scotland.

In his favoured position, in the number 13 shirt opposite Brian O’Driscoll, will be Saracens centre Brad Barritt. He, Kay says will be more difficult for O’Driscoll to exploit in attack.

“I’m sure Drico will be breathing a slight sigh of relief that he won’t have Manu running at his ribs with the ball.” Kay told

“But the way he defends, someone as good of a footballer as O’Driscoll could have exploited Manu if he stepped out of the line.”

Even so, England’s second row in back-to-back World Cup finals believes the threat of Tuilagi cancelled out any deficiency without the ball.

“I probably would have picked Manu. I think he’s got the X-Factor, he can unlock a game. Barritt is a stronger defender. He doesn’t make many mistakes in defence and will work well as a unit with Billy Twelvetrees.

“Then, perhaps when the game opens up a bit and the players are a bit tired, might be the time to bring Manu on – the last thing you want is Manu Tuilagi running at one of your arms, because he will break the tackle.”

As a long-time Leicester Tiger, Kay clearly will retain some loyalty to the Tuilagi family. That club also placed him in close proximity with the midfielder whose selection nobody questioned this week. Billy Twelvetrees.

Despite just making his international debut eight days ago the Gloucester (and former Leicester) inside centre impressed enough at Twickenham to warrant a place against the most experienced centre partnership in world rugby.


“He’s probably a more complete footballer than England have had in the centre for a long time.” Kay says of the 24-year-old. “He’s sort of your ‘Will Greenwood’ type; he’s got a good kicking game, good distribution but can still tackle and run the lines well himself.

“He’s quite complete as an inside centre, he played very well last week and just needs that consistency He’s an intelligent player, so he deserved to stay in the team, the question was whether Lancaster would select the defensive option or Tuilagi.”

Ben Kay will be on your screens in HD from 2pm this afternoon as RTE bring extensive live coverage of Ireland v England from the Aviva Stadium.

About the author:

Sean Farrell

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