England's Tuilagi looks ahead after ending eight-year World Cup try drought
Sapporo (Japan) (AFP) –
Manu Tuilagi insisted his focus was on the remainder of England's 2019 pool campaign after ending an eight-year gap between World Cup tries with a double in their opening 35-3 win over Tonga.
The powerful centre crossed twice in the first half under the Sapporo Dome roof to put England in a commanding position they never looked like surrendering.
England did though make numerous handling errors, but with hooker Jamie George and replacement Luke Cowan-Dickie scoring second-half tries they still secured a bonus-point win without, for the second Test in a row, conceding a try.
Tuilagi's career has been blighted by injuries, with the 28-year-old Samoa-born midfielder having scored 16 tries from only 36 Tests since his 2011 debut.
"I just wanted a win and get a try and do it all over again," said Tuilagi.
"I was fortunate to get a couple today. It is a long time since my last try in the World Cup but for some reason the try didn't feel any different from others I have scored. You just have to focus on winning."
Tuilagi's double strike came almost exactly eight years to the day -- September 24, 2011 -- since he last scored a World Cup try, in a 67-3 rout of Romania in Dunedin.
That edition ended for England with a 19-12 quarter-final defeat by France after which Tuilagi created some embarrassing headlines when he jumped off a ferry into Auckland harbour.
But with England next playing the United States in Kobe on Thursday, Tuilagi was in no mood to look back.
"It was a good game and we got the five points we needed and can now move on and focus on the USA," he said.
"We need to sort out some small mistakes and our discipline -- just little bits but they are important bits. We need to put it right on the training pitch.
"We have to put this game to bed. I hope there will be more to come."
- 'Unreal privilege' -
Sunday's game had added resonance for Tuilagi, in that it pitted him, a native Samoan, against Pacific island rivals Tonga for the first time.
"It was a privilege to stand in front of the Tonga war dance and it was brilliant," said Tuilagi. "It fired us all up for the game and it was good to be standing there.
"It is an unbelievable experience and I haven't done it before because I have only played against Fiji before. The first time against Tonga was unreal."
The way Tuilagi left several would-be tacklers trailing in his wake suggested he might be nearing peak form.
England coach Eddie Jones was certainly encouraged, saying: "Manu's increasingly getting close to his best.
"He's training well and is in great physical nick. He enjoys being around the boys.
"The boys love playing with him and for a Samoan to play against Tongan it's a pretty special occasion," the Australian added.
"Manu will only get better as the tournament goes on."
Tonga captain Siale Piutau, who started Sunday's match opposite Tuilagi accepted his side had been unable to stifle the Leicester back's pace and power.
"Manu was instrumental for them. We knew they'd go to him for their go forward and he did that," Piutau said.
"We tried to contain him but when you have someone of Manu's talent that gives you the gainline, it helps get your forwards into the game."
© 2019 AFP