Rugby

17-year-old Manu Tuilagi scored his first try at Twickenham

The official England Rugby Twitter account whetted the appetite for Saturday’s Autumn Nations Series final by posting a video of Manu Tuilagi scoring his first try at Twickenham at the age of 17. It was April 2009 when the now 31-year-old had his first run at English Rugby HQ and 28-second video of him in action as a teenager has proven hugely popular online before what will be the 50th Test appearance.

Playing for Hinkley-based John Cleveland College in the Daily Mail RBS Schools U18 Vase Final, the clip begins with the Cleveland scrum-half looking up from a ruck and flashing a pass to his half Ryan Oakes, who was stationed in the opposition line of ten meters.

Picking up the ball, the number 10 sent out a garryowen and with the camera following his trajectory, we could see a muscular and stocky Tuilagi come flying up, chasing hard at the right wing in his number 14 shirt.

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The ball bounced off the ground just outside the 22-yard line, and despite two Hampton players running at him, Tuilagi caught the ball two-handed and into the space between the pair.

Knowing he was going to score as he had beaten the defense, Tuilagi carried the ball in his right hand while raising his left arm in a finger-twisting celebration before diving over the line, landing and tossing the ball into the air in jubilation.

After receiving congratulations from several of his teammates, Tuilagi was seen clasping his hands in prayer and looking up to the sky in thanks before kissing his left hand and raising a pointed finger. The schools final at Twickenham, which Cleveland won 23-15, was the third game in a week for Tuilagi and prop Ryan Bower.

Both had played for Leicester the previous Wednesday in their 52-14 academy win over Japanese High Schools, Tuilagi scoring four tries, and were also involved in England’s Under-18 rout on Sunday against the tourists, a 71 -7 victory at Exeter.

The duo then visited The Stoop on Tuesday for a final training session with Cleveland and a pep talk from the Harlequins’ then director of rugby, Dean Richards, an older JCC boy. While Bower enjoyed a renowned club career with Leicester, Nottingham, Worcester and now Dallas, Tuilagi took considerable steps further, the Leicester center and now Sale representing England and the British and Irish Lions.

His career in recent years has been plagued by injury, but he is now set to play his fourth successive game for England this month, securing a 50th cap eleven years after his Test debut.

“It has been a difficult moment for Manu. The nice thing for us is that for three weeks he has been involved in every training session,” England manager Eddie Jones enthused, after naming Tuilagi at number 13, the same role he had against Argentina and New Zealand at both sides of a run as a substitute against Japan. “We had a pretty tough session on Wednesday and he got through everything. We are very happy with his progress.”

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