Tuilagi begins Tigers’ international banter

Leicester Tigers winger Alesana Tuilagi has begun the Welford Road in-house banter, suggesting that he and brother Henry will be a part of a Samoa team that springs a surprise on an England team containing team-mates Martin Corry and Lewis Moody, among others.

Leicester will likely have players in five different national teams at the World Cup, four of the teams – England and Samoa, and Argentina and Ireland – meeting in the pool stages.

Tuilagi’s Samoa meet England, and South Africa, in a repeat of their pool matches in the Rugby World Cup of 2003, in one of which Samoa led England for long periods before fitness and experience bailed out the eventual world champions.

Alesana Tuilagi, and his brothers Henry and Anitelea, also Tigers, are both likely to be in the Samoa squad for the match.

Having watched the last encounter on TV in his home village of Fogapoa, he can’t wait to show how much the Islanders have improved since then.

“Of course, England will be favourites to beat us, as will South Africa,” said Tuilagi in tthe UK’s Rugby World magazine.

“Those two are more likely to qualify for the knock-out stages than us. But I believe we have the best Samoa team ever, and we all feel we have a good chance of causing one, maybe two, upsets.

“I do expect England to be much better than they have been though. They are defending world champions and I’m sure they will play like that too.

“Even though they have only three games with a full squad to select from before the World Cup begins, no team in the world would be foolish enough to write them off.

“They are favourites to beat us and qualify, but I think we can win and create our own history.

“We’ve never beaten them and we haven’t qualified for the quarter-finals since 1991, so we have much to aim for.”

Tuilagi, who had a memorable season for the Tigers, exemplifies the new wave of Samoans making a name for themselves in the world’s big leagues who, bolstered by an improving infrastructure back home, are forming a formidable unit.

“Since (2003), things have improved. We have become a lot more professional, there are more funds, our stadium in Apia is now very nice, and it holds around 20,000 people. No longer will we be going to the World Cup believing we are poor underdogs.

“Obviously, we don’t get much of a chance to get together as a squad, but with six Test matches even before the World Cup we should have really gelled, and know what our best 22 will be.

“We’ve also been really boosted by our success in the IRB Sevens this year in Hong Kong. By winning the cup against many players we will be facing in the World Cup in France, we know we can beat anyone on our day.

“Many of our sevens stars will be playing for us in the World Cup, so they will be full of confidence.”


365 Digital

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