Manu Tuilagi can help England do some “serious damage” at the Rugby World Cup, according to former England international Andy Goode.
Leicester Tigers star Tuilagi was involved in the 2011 finals as a 20-year-old but missed the tournament in England four years ago after being convicted of assaulting two female police officers and a taxi driver.
Having put disciplinary and injury problems behind him, the Samoa-born centre has re-established himself as a key component of Eddie Jones’ side and was named man of the match for a blistering performance in the 57-15 demolition of Ireland at Twickenham last month.
Goode’s second spell with Leicester ended shortly before Tuilagi made his debut but, having experienced going up against the 28-year-old, he is expecting big things in Japan.
“I can’t wait to see him play in the World Cup and I’ve been on the other side of it, when he’s been charging at me, and it’s not what you want to see, believe me,” Goode told Omnisport.
“He almost single-handedly beat the All Blacks in 2012 [in a 38-21 win], producing one of the best performances you will see in an England shirt.
“Obviously, he’s had some awful luck with injuries, but he looks very fit and his workload has been managed, so I’m expecting big things of him.
WELCOME TO #RWC2019
— England Rugby (@EnglandRugby) September 16, 2019
“I am so excited to see this England side with the ball-carrying ability of Billy Vunipola and Manu Tuilagi. They can do some serious damage.
“England are riding on the crest of a wave at the moment, I’ve been very impressed with them heading into the tournament, they look very fit with a real hunger to go there and make a massive impact.
“It’s the most open World Cup there has ever been. New Zealand are rightly favourites, but there are several sides capable of winning it. The All Blacks will obviously be tough to beat, but they are not as big a favourites as what they have been in recent years.”
England failed to get out of Pool A when hosting the tournament four years ago, and Goode hopes the players have learned how to manage matches better following that disappointment.
“The players who were involved four years ago can use that failure to their advantage and I have no doubt they will,” he said. “The likes of Owen Farrell and Ben Youngs, they have much more experience under their belt and will have learned a hell of lot from the way England let that slip away.
“England’s game management in the match against Wales, when they let go of a lead and could have drawn it but showed a lack of clear thinking to miss out on a draw, I’d be surprised if you see a repeat of that.”
Mako Vunipola and Jack Nowell are not expected to be fit until after England’s opening two matches against Tonga and the United States, but Goode thinks their return could prove a timely boost.
“The injection of a Jack Nowell and Mako can be huge, they will be hungry and ready to fire after missing the start of the tournament,” he added.
“You then just have to hope there are no other serious injury setbacks, which is where that bit of luck you need comes into it. Every side needs an element of luck to win a World Cup.”
Key matches for the Rugby World Cup, including home nation and knockout stage games, will be aired at more than 500 Greene King pubs nationwide.