Sport Rugby

Sunday 24 September 2017

Tuilagi ready to raise the roof

Chris Hewitt

Manu Tuilagi has never once set foot inside the Millennium Stadium so he is not entirely sure what to expect when he takes the field on Grand Slam business in two days' time.

"I've always wanted to go to Cardiff and watch a game in that stadium," he said. "The thought of playing there really excites me... If they close the roof at the Millennium, the noise level will be really loud.

"We're not the ones with pressure on us. The game is in Wales, so they're the ones who have to perform. And anyway, we're really good at playing away. We haven't lost a Six Nations game on the road for two years."

The Leicester centre is not thinking in terms of England losing this one, either. Self-doubt is not obviously a part of his make-up.

If Stuart Lancaster, the red-rose coach, asked him to play on the wing, thereby creating a midfield space for the Gloucester playmaker Billy Twelvetrees and his greater range of skills, he would simply shrug his shoulders and crack on with doing what he likes to do on a rugby field: that is to say, smithereen opponents when he runs at them and marmalise them when they run at him.

Lancaster is not expected to do any such thing when he confirms his starting line-up today. England are likely to make changes in both half-back positions – Owen Farrell for Toby Flood, Ben Youngs for Danny Care – and may well go with Tom Croft on the blindside flank. England's midfield balance is patently a matter for close examination but, in fairness to the coach, a Grand Slam game against the nearest and dearest on the less welcoming bank of the Severn is hardly the time to experiment.

Elsewhere, Grant Gilchrist will make his debut for Scotland as one of two changes to its starting team for Saturday's Six Nations match against France in Paris.

The 22-year-old Gilchrist comes in at lock to replace Richie Gray, who has been ruled out for around eight weeks after tearing his hamstring muscle in the 28-18 loss to Wales last Saturday.

TEAM IN FACTFILE (© Independent News Service)

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