Manu Tuilagi labelled England’s stunning 32-20 win over Ireland in Dublin on the opening weekend of the 2019 Guinness Six Nations as the greatest victory of his career.
England had not scored a Championship try at the Aviva Stadium in eight years, nor had they beaten Ireland at home since 2013, but Eddie Jones’ side rewrote the record books on Saturday.
And Tuilagi insisted that the result is as good as it gets and even tops the remarkable victory over New Zealand at Twickenham in 2012 – which he inspired.
“It’s right up there for me,” said 27-year-old Tuilagi. “It’s the first game of the Six Nations, Ireland are the best in Europe and second in the world for a reason.
Starting in the Championship for the Red Rose for the first time in six years, the centre played a key role as two scores from Henry Slade and efforts from Jonny May and Elliot Daly sealed victory.
He added: “It’s been a while for me in the Six Nations – it was nice to be back out there and to enjoy the whole atmosphere right from the start.”
Ireland were looking for back-to-back Grand Slams for the first time but they had no answers for an England side whose suffocating defence stifled their creativity.
The win represented revenge for Jones’ men, who witnessed Ireland complete the Grand Slam at Twickenham a year ago.
Tuilagi was joined by Slade in the midfield for the first time and after his second-half brace secured victory for England, the Exeter Chiefs centre revealed how much he enjoyed their partnership.
Slade said: “We knew exactly how we wanted to play and we executed it perfectly. The half-backs controlled the game well, we all dug in and everyone put themselves on the line.
“It’s the first time I’ve ever had the chance to play with Manu.
Co-captain Owen Farrell led from the front for England, firing a pass to Daly who set up May for the opening try of the game with less than two minutes on the clock.
Not even a Cian Healy reply could instigate anything for the Irish, who then saw Daly cross before two scores from Slade capped the win for the visitors.
And Jones warned their rivals that there is more to come from his side.
He said: “We are a team that is still growing. We’re nowhere near our best. We’re looking forward to playing better than that — and we will.”