Ben Youngs has warned Ireland that Manu Tuilagi is in the shape of his life as England plot to launch the powerful centre on another decisive early raid.
Tuilagi admitted this week that he hid the early stages of the groin injury that almost ended his career back in 2014 – but has been recalled to England’s starting XV following the 13-6 defeat to Wales.
Ireland will move to number one in the world with a win over England at Twickenham, live on Sky Sports Action and Sky Sports Main Event, and they head to London refreshed from a training camp in Portugal.
England vs Ireland
August 24, 2019, 2:00pm
Get Sky Sports Get a Sky Sports pass
But with Eddie Jones selecting a close-to full-strength line-up, victory is far from assured, and scrum-half Youngs has fired a warning to Joe Schmidt’s side.
“Manu… the Chief’s looked great. He’s probably in the best physical shape I’ve ever seen him,” Youngs said of his Leicester team-mate.
“He’s certainly in a great head-space, loving every minute of being here, which is fantastic. He’s always happy, he’s buzzing around the place.
“He’s constantly enthusiastic and that rubs off on guys. I’m excited to see how he goes.
“We saw glimpses of it in the first two games, particularly the first Wales game with his carry, so we’ll try to get him into the game early against Ireland.
“Against Wales at Twickenham, everyone was running back saying ‘yours’.”
Tuilagi will be making his first start of the World Cup warm-up Tests, having delivered impressive cameos in the two matches against Warren Gatland’s side.
It was his bulldozing run straight from a line-out provided the launchpad for Jonny May to score in the second minute at the Aviva Stadium in February, igniting a stunning 32-20 victory over the defending Six Nations champions.
George Ford and Owen Farrell will start a Test together for the first time in 14 months, with Jones keen to explore attacking variety.
It will be the first time the pair have started a Test at 10 and 12 since England lost 23-12 to South Africa in Bloemfontein in June 2018, but Youngs has backed the strategy.
“We’re excited by the talent that we have out there,” he added.
“George and Owen – together with their distribution skills and the way they can manipulate defenders – it allows opportunities for Manu, for Jonny and for others.
VOTE: England-Ireland combined XV
Vote for your combined England-Ireland XV ahead of Saturday’s Test at Twickenham.
“I’m very familiar with playing alongside George and Owen, so I’m sure we’ll be able to attack a bit more.
“We’re back at Twickenham for the last time before we head to Japan. It’s hugely exciting and a lot of the boys are very excited to be back.