Jones: Tuilagi and Lawes add “edge” to England

England’s Manu Tuilagi
England head coach Eddie Jones has said the return of Manu Tuilagi and Courtney Lawes will bring “that bit of edge” to his side ahead of their crucial Guinness Six Nations fixture against Wales on Saturday.

England head coach Eddie Jones has said the return of Manu Tuilagi and Courtney Lawes will bring “that bit of edge” to his side ahead of their crucial Guinness Six Nations fixture against Wales on Saturday.

Jones has brought in the experienced duo ahead of Joe Marchant and Nick Isiekwe but has opted for Harry Randall over Ben Youngs at scrum-half.

Youngs is set to become England’s record appearance maker on Saturday if he comes on as a replacement in what will be his 115th cap, overtaking legendary prop Jason Leonard.

Ahead of the game, Jones was full of praise for the returning duo of Tuilagi and Lawes: “They are both very experienced players who have won big Test matches, so they understand what is needed for game like the one against Wales.

“Manu brings us a different way to attack in the backs and Courtney is a great ball carrier and a good lineout forward, and also a destructive defender, so they bring that bit of edge to the team.”

Lawes, who will make his 91st appearance for England, will also captain the side on his return, something Jones sees as a natural move.

“Courtney was going to be the captain when Owen [Farrell] was unavailable so it’s just a natural change back to the guy who was going to be captain.

“He has got good skills around the players; when he speaks, they listen. He leads by example.”

The return of Tuilagi at inside centre adds considerable size to England’s backline, something Jones sees as particularly valuable.

Jones said: “When he’s not there we don’t have that big back to play off. And it’s handy having a big back to play off because they dent the line and it creates space for the little guys to play small ball in that bigger space.

“He is a gain line accumulator, he wins the game line pretty consistently, he draws defenders in which creates space for other options, and he does that better than anyone else in the world when he’s at full tilt and we’re planning for him to be at full tilt on Saturday.”

Tuilagi’s selection also recreates a midfield that briefly excited fans in the autumn as he lines up alongside Marcus Smith at fly-half and Henry Slade at outside centre.

It is a combination that Jones sees as well-balanced and complementary to one another: “Well you have got Marcus who has got sleight of hand, quick feet, the ability to beat people one-on-one in tight spaces.

“Sladey who has got an educated left foot, a good passer of the ball and also the ability to make breaks and then to compliment that you’ve got power with Manu. He’s just a little powerhouse isn’t he.”

Saturday’s match at Twickenham will also once more see the combination of Harry Randall and Marcus Smith in the half-back positions after an impressive performance against Italy.

Bristol Bears No.9 Randall, who will make just his third appearance for his country, has got the nod over the vastly experienced Youngs, but Jones’ selection is with both in mind.

“We want to put some pace in the game early. We feel like there will be some opportunities against Wales early in the game and Harry each week has been in increasingly better form,” he said.

“He’s sharp around the ruck, he gives us a bit of that instinctiveness with his ability to take quick taps and run quickly and then the converse of that is that we’ve got Ben Youngs to finish the game.

“Imagine having a half-back of 115 caps in the best form of his career coming on to manage that last 20 minutes.”

It is a last 20 minutes that Jones knows will be crucial in a fixture that is nearly always tightly contested between two sides who both know they must win if they want to remain with a chance of winning this year’s Guinness Six Nations.

“If you go into the last two games with a 2-1 record you’re going to be in with a chance to win the trophy so both teams understand what’s at stake, both teams are going to be well prepared and it’s going to be a tough old game,” he added.

“When Wales come to England, and they’ve done well here previously, it is a hard fought, it goes to the wire type game and as a coach those are the games you want to be involved in you just don’t want it to go too close to the wire.”