Tuilagi tipped to be England's Nonu


Twickenham (United Kingdom) (AFP)

Powerhouse centre Manu Tuilagi could have the same impact as New Zealand great Ma'a Nonu, according to new England coach Eddie Jones.

Samoa-born Tuilagi won the last of his 25 England caps in 2014 and is currently working his way back to full fitness following a longstanding groin injury.

The Leicester midfielder is unlikely to be available for the Six Nations opener away to Scotland on February 6 but that did not stop Jones including him in his first England squad on Wednesday.

Midfield has been a problem area for England ever since the end of the partnership between Will Greenwood and Mike Tindall, who both starred in a 2003 World Cup final win against an Australia side coached by Jones.

But England's new boss said a fit-again Tuilagi could pose a threat comparable to that of Nonu, a World Cup-winner in both 2011 and 2015.

"I think when he's fit, he can be a Ma'a Nonu-type player," Jones told reporters at Twickenham.

"He's got an exceptional skill-base and exceptional feet. He's got the ability to carry the ball through the line, he’s got a short passing game, he can develop a kicking game too.

"He can be one of the guys that the team is built around."

Tuilagi missed out on last year's World Cup in England when former coach Stuart Lancaster suspended him following a late night altercation with Leicester police, although his injury meant he would not have played anyway.

England crashed out in the first round, with the hosts' early exit seeing Lancaster ditched and Australia's Jones, the first foreigner to coach the side, brought in as his replacement.

- Scotland threat -

England will now face a Scotland side still smarting from their last-gasp World Cup quarter-final loss to Australia.

"They are top of the pops at the moment aren't they, Scotland?," said Jones.

"They thought they should have beaten Australia in the quarter-final. They are going to be that up for it at Murrayfield. It will be fantastic to go there."

Jones, however, then risked angering Scots ahead of next month's Calcutta Cup clash with a somewhat lopsided take on the history of rugby union's oldest international fixture.

"We've never lost a Calcutta Cup game for a long time -- or ever .... since 2008," he said to the sound of laughter.

"I got that wrong, sorry. They (Scotland) are going to be difficult to beat...They've got some game-breakers in the backs. (Greig) Laidlaw's a clever player at nine (scrum-half), (Stuart) Hogg gives them something different at 15 (fullback)," he explained.

One of seven uncapped players in Jones's first England squad is Sale back-row Josh Beaumont, the son of former England captain Bill Beaumont.

Beaumont senior is now chairman of the Rugby Football Union -- Jones's employer.

But Jones stressed Josh's selection was purely down to form.

"Josh is a good young player and I’ve been very impressed with him.

"When you go to watch a game of rugby, I don’t select the players, they select themselves."