Topsy Ojo column: With Manu Tuilagi on the wing, it’s clear this is going to be a real physical battle

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 (Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

Eddie Jones will have a plan behind starting Manu Tuilagi on the wing against Australia tomorrow, but to all the wingers queuing up to play for England it is a bit of kick in the teeth.

I would be absolutely gutted if I was one of those wingers in the squad and saw a centre lining up ahead of me on the wing.

Manu will, of course, adapt because he’s a quality player, but I definitely went from having a smile because Marcus Smith was starting, to raising an eyebrow at seeing him on the wing and Adam Radwan left out completely.

England will have trained this all week, it won’t have been something they came up with yesterday.

They’ll have been running it from Monday, so they should have a clear idea as to how the balance will be. I just hope there aren’t too many ball players and not enough strike runners.

I know Manu played on the wing for England back in 2014 and it did work, but I think this is a short-term solution based for specific opposition. If you look at the bench, you can see Eddie wants to make a real physical statement against Australia and Manu definitely adds to that.

Eddie is probably thinking Australia are there for the taking in terms of the physical game, hence the six forwards on the bench, two of them No8s, to add to the power that will already be on the pitch. It’s a big squad and Eddie is making it very obvious where he wants to hurt the Wallabies tomorrow.

During the first phase of attack, expect England to use Manu as both a main carrier and as a decoy — don’t expect him to spend the majority of the game out on his wing. In general play, the backs will be very interchangeable, as we saw last week against Tonga — with Manu making breaks out wide as well as through the middle.

In phase defence, we might find that Owen Farrell or Smith drops into the back-three a lot and Manu ends up as a frontline defender.

Ultimately, Manu is going to have to take some high balls, but Freddie Steward will most likely position himself so he takes the majority of them.

If it becomes an issue, then you can change it, as Max Malins is on the bench, but I think Eddie is thinking more about the damage he can do to Australia than where they might threaten England.

There is so much creativity in that backline — vision combined with high technical skill and experience. You would like to think, between all of them, they have the ability to find or create space quickly and attack with some real tempo.

The slight concern would be that there are some new combinations again, but once they figure that out in the opening 10 minutes, I expect England to really take things up a few gears.

You have got everything you want in that team. Yes, Manu is out of position, but you’ve got a potent blend of power, pace and creativity.

The tools are there, it’s now about seeing whether England can knit it all together.

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