England weigh up using Tuilagi on the wing
Tom Hamilton in Auckland
June 8, 2014
Manu Tuilagi was one of England's star performers on Saturday © Getty Images
England coach Stuart Lancaster has revealed they are weighing up whether to use Manu Tuilagi on the wing against the All Blacks on Saturday.
Tuilagi was at his destructive best in their 20-15 loss to New Zealand in the first Test at Eden Park but with England now free to pick those from Saracens and Northampton, Lancaster may shift Tuilagi to the wing.
The centre partnership of Kyle Eastmond and Tuilagi fared well against the All Blacks but with Luther Burrell, Billy Twelvetrees and Brad Barritt all waiting in the wings having missed the first Test, Lancaster has some big selection calls to make ahead of the game in Dunedin.
And one of these could be to shift Tuilagi to the flank to make way for a potential Twelvetrees/ Burrell partnership in the centres. When asked about his options in the back three, Lancaster answered: "We've got Chris Ashton here. We've got a potential option of playing Manu on the wing. That has been discussed in selection.
"We have not done that yet but that is certainly part of one thing that could happen. And we have got Anthony Watson who is fit and available. Overall, our attacking game was pretty good. It is not just the wings who score tries. But all options are open."
And Lancaster believes Tuilagi has the ability and pace to test the All Blacks on the wing. "You saw how quickly he tracked back when they kicked the ball through," Lancaster said. "He is one of the quickest in our squad. He has not played there for a while for his club but came through age grade as a wing.
"He would be a significant threat off phase play. But equally all the aerial work and everything else is all part of the equation and more that that would challenge him. Defensively he would be fine. He understands the system."
Another area England will need to weigh up is hooker. Rob Webber played superbly, hitting all his lineouts, but Dylan Hartley was first choice during the Six Nations.
"Rob Webber's performance was exceptional particularly in the circumstances," Lancaster said. "A lot of you saw the injury at the time, it was a serious injury in the Bath game. He's fought his way back having not played for however long, and to have come and play that well in a Test match.
"His lineout throwing was excellent. This is a guy I have coached since he was 14 and I know him and trust him inside out. I knew he would not let us down. I knew his scrummaging was excellent. He's put a strong case in to retain his position for this week though Dylan Hartley will have something to say about that in training."
England were without Twelvetrees for the first Test as he was still recovering from an ankle injury he sustained on May 3 but he is now back in the frame. Danny Care is expected to be back in non-contact training on Tuesday while Alex Goode is a doubt for the second Test with an injury to an AC joint.
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd
Tom Hamilton is the Associate Editor of ESPNscrum.
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