Manu Tuilagi insists he has no regrets on turbulent England career as he recalls infamous World Cup antics

webnexttech | Manu Tuilagi insists he has no regrets on turbulent England career as he recalls infamous World Cup antics

Manu Tuilagi has one simple piece of advice for any budding young pro – jump in. And yes, the Samoa-born powerhouse means every inch of the irony. Tuilagi has spent 13 years wrecking Test match defences, but the 32-year-old will always be known for taking a dip in Auckland Harbour at the 2011 World Cup. The Sale star is primed for potentially his last England appearance in Saturday night’s Six Nations finale against France in Lyon. Tuilagi dived off a commercial ferry into Auckland Harbour amid England’s off-the-rails 2011 Rugby World Cup campaign, to the great consternation of brow-beaten boss Martin Johnson. More than a decade, 59 caps and countless groin injuries down the line, Tuilagi insisted he regrets nothing on his “amazing” career, even the impromptu dip in that Kiwi drink. Laughing at the Auckland Harbour memory as he pondered his advice to players just starting out on their career path, Tuilagi said: “Just enjoy yourself, if you have the opportunity to enjoy yourself and play the game that you love. “That was good fun! Life is fun, if you want it to be.” Tuilagi was fined by the RFU and cautioned by New Zealand police in a stunt that went down badly with the powers that be, but encapsulated the youthful exuberance that would see him fling his body into untold Test match skirmishes. Now married with kids and relishing family life just as much as his rugby career, England captain Jamie George called Tuilagi “wise” earlier this week. Breezily downplaying George’s compliments, Tuilagi continued: “I always say, enjoy being around the people that you have. You can always learn from them, and help each other.” Tuilagi was coy on his own long-term future, demurring when quizzed on where he will playing next season. Bayonne and Montpellier are battling it out for his services, with the highly regarded midfielder unlikely to stay at Sale. But then the press conference fell prey to a moment of dramatic timing. As Tuilagi finished his answer about how to live each day of your career as though it is your last, an automatic curtain started to descend behind him. “You never know when it will be the last time with those people,” said Tuilagi, as the gears on that blind whirred into action. “I think that’s the cue for us to leave! “My only plan is to hopefully get on the pitch on Saturday. I don’t really know what I am doing the day after next to be fair! For me representing England and getting an opportunity is a blessing and I can’t wait. “Every time I get to represent England it could be the last game. Every game could be your last game, so you have got to make the most of it and enjoy it.” Tuilagi’s long-running groin problems started when he dislocated his pubis bone in 2014. He hid the injury for several weeks, trying to play with self-applied strapping. In 2019 he admitted that naivety led directly to his years of injury concerns. But as he stands on the cusp of completing his time in England colours, Tuilagi insisted he would not change anything in his turbulent career. “That was a long time ago now – I don’t regret that,” he said. “It’s been written [that] it’s what got me here. So I was very lucky to have had that injury.” The famously tough Tuilagi even played through a broken hand at last year’s World Cup, but downplayed the tenacity required to shut out pain. “I said to the doctor that did the X-ray, ‘Can I play with this?’,” he recalled. “He said, ‘It’s up to you’. “As a rugby player if you can play you will. I was like, ‘Great, cheers, thank you’. So that was it. It’s just pain. That’s what I tell my kids, it’s just pain. So now, even when they are crying, I say to them, ‘What is it?’ And they answer, ‘It’s just pain!’ – but it really is.” Tuilagi could have faced his nephew Posolo on Saturday, only for the giant Perpignan lock to be sent for Under-20s action on Friday night instead. The Tuilagi clan will be out in force in Lyon though, with the England star still humbled by their backing. “My family will be coming, my mum is over as well,” he added. “And they’ll be supporting England. “I’m so proud of Posolo, watching him grow up and for him to do well. The biggest thing for me is that he’s a good lad. That’s most important, and if he stays like that he’ll go a long way.” Tuilagi has come a long way from Fogapoa, the Samoan village that is the family’s traditional home. And from visa wrangles as a teenager in Leicester to becoming England’s favourite son, the senior statesman will end another chapter in his remarkable tale tomorrow.

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