Manu Tuilagi has told how he is preparing for Wales by rehearsing his wrecking ball tactics – on the chess board.
England’s plans for Saturday’s Twickenham clash might have been disrupted by the shock of prop Mako Vunipola being told to self-isolate as a coronavirus precaution after he flew home from Tonga via Hong Kong.
But Tuilagi has focused in on the task at hand by heading to the games room at England's five-star hotel and schooling his team mates.
“He killed me at chess, he is unbelievable at it,” Henry Slade admitted. “It lasted about 30 seconds. It was a rude awakening.”
England have been at their best on the pitch when they jump out to a fast start on the back of a marauding Tuilagi forcing the opposition onto the back foot.
New Zealand could not cope with him in the World Cup, Ireland were equally powerless 10 days ago.
And now team mates, used to the luxury of playing alongside him, are getting a taste of the treatment he inflicts on the enemy – without even picking up a ball.
Tuilagi, 28, chuckled: “I only started playing chess in Japan during the World Cup but I am obsessed with it.
“The way I play is pretty much the same as my rugby. If I’m in white I’ll attack as you get to go first.
“And when you attack you have to go all in, because as soon as you let your foot off the gas you’ll be losing.”
The Irish team well beaten at Twickenham less than a fortnight ago will recognise that approach.
“I try to get us over the gainline early on, get some momentum,” Tuilagi continued. “If we get that it’s easier to play off it, whether to kick or carry on running.
“We got it last week and we had a good start. Hopefully we will look to do the same against Wales.”
After England had beaten Ireland, forwards coach Matt Proudfoot turned to his family and asked them which player had caught their eye. All said Tuilagi.
“He just offers so much,” said Proudfoot. “He gives you direction. His personality is dependable, reliable. He offers that in the midfield.”
Slade must wait to see whether Eddie Jones considers the time right to restore his centre partnership with Tuilagi, which worked so well in Japan, against Wales. He would love nothing more.
“Manu gives the team a massive lift,” said the Exeter ace. “He gets us over the gainline really well, but we can also use him as a decoy. And defensively, if you run into him, he hits you bloody hard.”
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