It's now or never! Tuilagi convinced England can get a result against the All Blacks
16:15 GMT, 29 November 2012
Reasons to be cheerful: Tuilagi
Manu Tuilagi hopes that a gruelling season will take its toll on New Zealand when they face England at Twickenham on Saturday.
The All Blacks play the last game of a four-match tour of the northern hemisphere which has come straight off the back of a six-match Rugby Championship series and the intense Super Rugby competition that all of their squad were involved in during the summer.
The All Blacks have Andrew Hore missing through suspension and Dan Carter has had to pass a late fitness test on a troublesome calf – add to that a sickness bug that has swept through Steve Hansen's squad and England have plenty of reasons for optimism despite having lost their last two fixtures against South Africa and New Zealand.
Asked if now was the best time to be play New Zealand, Red Rose centre Tuilagi said: 'I hope so. They're coming to the end of their tour and will be tired.'
Saturday's game is England's last fixture before next year's Six Nations, and Tuilagi realises the need to take momentum into the tournament. 'It is very important to finish on a high,' added the 21-year-old.
'To get a win against New Zealand, the
best team in the world, that would be a dream ending for us and it would
be a great way to get the momentum going again heading into the Six
Close call: England lost to South Africa by just one point
Tuilagi's optimism is born from an improved performance by Stuart Lancaster's side in last week's agonising 15-16 loss to the Springboks.
Although profligacy remains an issue, England dominated the game for the long periods against the No 2 ranked side in the world and Tuilagi revealed that the camp are feeling much more positive than they did after the dismal defeat to Australia the previous week.
'It feels a little bit better than last week, but we're frustrated still,' he added. 'We went toe to toe with the second best team in the world, but we don't want to be a team that is satisfied by losing by one point, we want to get that win and we couldn't ask for a better team to get it against than New Zealand.
'The last two games have been really frustrating, we've played really well but just haven't finished the opportunities we have created. But we have been working really hard on that in training and now we have a great challenge in front of us to try and put that right.
Starting role: Tuilagi lines up in the centres alongside Brad Barritt
'We've looked at the video (of the South Africa game) and we believe we played very well. We fronted up, we were disciplined, we were strong at the breakdown and at the scrum. We just need to keep on doing those things well and improve against the All Blacks.
'All the boys are looking forward to it. We have got a chance to show that we can beat the best side in the world.'
Tuilagi shot to stardom after making a blistering start to his England career last year in the build up to and during the World Cup. He has become one of the first names on the team-sheet for England but Saturday will be the first time he has faced the world's best side. It is a challenge he is looking forward to.
'I'm very excited,' Tuilagi enthused. 'It will be the first time I have played against the All Blacks and I just can't wait to play.'
And what about facing the formidable haka 'We will just stand up there and smile,' Tuilagi said. 'It's a great tradition for rugby and for New Zealand but all you can do is respect it and accept the challenge they're putting in front of you.'
Grin and bear it: Tuilagi says he will smile through the haka
The challenge directly in front of Tuilagi will be the most revered centre pairing in world rugby – Ma'a Nonu and Conrad Smith.
Commentators have expressed concerns over the ability of England's midfield partnership of Tuilagi and Brad Barritt to stand up to the world's best, but Tuilagi is looking forward to the challenge and insists he and Barritt are up to the task.
'Playing New Zealand is exciting whoever is wearing that All Black shirt, but to come up against the likes of Ma'a Nonu and Conrad Smith would be the ultimate challenge as a centre,' Tuilagi added.
'For me personally, I love playing with Brad. He is a fantastic player and I love playing outside him. I don't have to worry about him because I know he is always going to be there for me, so being there at 13 outside him is what you want.'