England's World Cup Hopes Invigorated After Stunning Show

Manu Tuilagi leads the way in huge win
15:27, 26 Aug 2019

Almost sixteen years have passed since Jonny Wilkinson's dramatic drop-goal so gloriously gave England victory over Australia in the 2003 World Cup final in Sydney.

Not much has gone right on the world stage for the Red Rose since then but now, ahead of the 2019 incarnation in Japan, immortality beckons once again.

Could Eddie Jones' side go all the way and finally re-establish themselves as the best side on the planet? You would have your doubts, but Saturday's crushing demolition of Ireland in a World Cup warm-up game certainly had fans dreaming again.

Thousands of England supporters walked away from a packed Twickenham full of belief and hope, but more importantly so did Jones' players after the 57-15 success.

England ran in eight tries at a baking Twickenham to register their largest winning margin against the visitors. Ireland crossed first through Jordan Larmour but Joe Cokanasiga, Elliot Daly and Manu Tuilagi all scored as the hosts built a 12-point half-time lead.

England added further tries from Maro Itoje, George Kruis, Tom Curry, Cokanasiga and Luke Cowan-Dickie.

Significantly, after England's fringe players had been ushered into the spotlight in two World Cup warm-up matches against Wales, something closer to a first-choice XV faced Ireland.

Sure enough, there was an energy about England, a collective desire which bodes well ahead of their opening World Cup match against Tonga on September 22.

This is an England side awash with world-class talent but the sight of Manu Tuilagi bulldozing his way through the Ireland defence, in particular, was heartening.

The sun was shining, the script was written, the stage was his.

In a backline dripping with talent and indeed experience, containing Tuilagi's Leicester team-mates Jonny May, George Ford and Ben Youngs, plus Owen Farrell, Joe Cokanasiga and Elliot Daly, Tuilagi shone as brightly as anyone.
Every time the centre collected possession it took two or three Ireland players to stop him and even then it was a struggle.

At over 6ft and 17 and a half stone, that was no surprise. Yes, Tuilagi has a simple run-in for his try, but it was the rest of his work that stood out, such as the implacable challenge on Ireland wing Jordan Larmour as he caught a high kick.  “He’s in a good place, he’s got a smile on his face, he’s getting fitter,” said Jones of Tuilagi afterwards.

“He’s about 80 per cent fit, but when he gets there he will be a handful. “But when he gets there he’ll be a handful. It will be scary if you have to mark him. One of his best assets is that people like to play with him.”

Everything is pointing towards Tuilagi making his mark at the World Cup in Japan.

Cokanasiga, who answered his critics with two tries a week after firing blanks against Wales, said: "When you see Manu carry like that and want to get involved in the game as he did, it inspires you to do the same.

"He was my idol growing up - I messaged him on Facebook to tell him that when I was 15 - and on Saturday he was back to his best." 

England's final warm-up game is against Italy at Newcastle’s St James’ Park on Friday, September 7, where Tuilagi will look to edge a step closer towards peak form and fitness ahead of the World Cup.