England’s Manu Tuilagi is the best in world rugby, even with the injuries, insists Henry Slade

England’s Manu Tuilagi is the best in world rugby, even with the injuries, insists Henry Slade

Henry Slade insists Manu Tuilagi remains the world’s best player, despite the England centre’s torrid injury record.

Tuilagi made his England debut in 2011, but has been limited to 48 caps amid a string of setbacks. Exeter’s Slade did not start his Test career until 2015, but won his 50th cap last weekend in the 52-13 win over Japan.

Sale powerhouse Tuilagi is midway through his latest quest to banish his injury concerns and will hope to make a big impact in Saturday’s Twickenham clash against New Zealand, and Slade has no doubts about his midfield partner’s enduring qualities.

“I don’t think there’s any other centre like him in world rugby,” he said. “In my view, I still think he’s the best in the world, just from what he can give you.

 (Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

“It’s not just what he brings in terms of getting over the gain line, but the amount of space he can create for others by doing that and by being the threat he is. If you go to the line, you have to respect that Manu could get the ball and bust you at any point. The headaches he must give defences is nuts.”

Repeated groin injuries eventually led to a severe pubic bone problem in 2014 that threatened to end Tuilagi’s career. Soft tissue problems have remained a concern ever since his protracted recovery, and Tuilagi now has a carefully monitored training plan.

Slade revealed, however, that a lack of time ‘pushing tin’ has not affected Tuilagi’s potency one jot.

“For a guy who doesn’t do weights — he doesn’t do any — he’s one of the most powerful guys I’ve ever met,” he said. “We have a really good relationship off the field and that translates onto it. He’s a great guy, what he brings to the team is pretty obvious in terms of how powerful he is. He’s awesome to play with. Having him in the squad always gives us that bit of confidence.”

Slade was initially overlooked for England’s autumn campaign but has seized his opportunity to return after injury issues opened the door.

He revealed head coach Eddie Jones has told him to bolster his attacking game in England colours.

“I think it’s just being more of a threat myself and taking people on more and being a bit more aggressive with ball in hand,” said Slade. “It’s something I’ve been working on and it’s going well.”