British and Irish Lions 2013: Party over as Tiger Manu Tuilagi plays catch-up with Lions - International - Rugby Union - The Independent

British and Irish Lions 2013: Party over as Tiger Manu Tuilagi plays catch-up with Lions

Final duties of Leicester and Leinster stars means they must work even harder for their places

Manu Tuilagi, one of 13 late arrivals who only linked up with the Lions tour party the day before departure due to domestic commitments, accepts that he faces having to play catch-up in the contest to secure a coveted starting place come the first Test against Australia.

Tuilagi is one of six Leicester players and another half dozen from Leinster who arrived at the team's pre-departure base in London on Sunday having been delayed by domestic finals the previous day. Rory Best, the Ulster hooker, only checked in hours before the 37-strong squad flew to Hong Kong.

The squad will have their first full training session today at the So Kon Po Recreation ground before the team for the opening match of the tour, against the Barbarians on Saturday, is announced by Warren Gatland tomorrow.

The starters, and most of the bench, are not expected to contain many of the Leinster and Leicester contingent, although Best or Tom Youngs will have to feature to cover for the Wales hooker Richard Hibbard, while props Dan Cole and Cian Healy could also be in the match-day squad. It means Jamie Roberts and Jonathan Davies are likely to get first go in the centres with Tuilagi and Brian O'Driscoll, waiting until the first game in Australia – against Western Force in Perth next Wednesday – for their chance.

Centre may well prove the keenest contest for a starting place come the first Test in Brisbane on 22 June. O'Driscoll has admitted he will have to play catch-up on the Welsh duo, who have trained well over the last two weeks, and Tuilagi, too, knows there is no time to waste in what will be a tough competition for his No 13 shirt.

"No doubt about that," said Tuilagi. "The talent that we have in the team is massive. I came in yesterday and we watched training and it looked really sharp. That's the level you have to be. You just have to be on your game the whole time here, training and competing for places in the team.

"It's going to be hard, a massive challenge. We had a sit-down with Owen [Farrell], Jamie and a few of the boys and they told us what we need to know. We need to get up to speed and there are a few sore bodies from the weekend. For us boys just coming in we have to get our homework done, get up to speed with everything and be ready for our turn."

What the latecomers – Best apart, having finished on the losing side against Leinster – have in their favour, according to Gatland, is the boost from having been part of successful teams, and the Leicester contingent – Tuilagi plus the Youngs brothers, Cole, Tom Croft and Geoff Parling – took particular relish from their Premiership victory over Northampton.

"I am still happy and smiling from that," said Tuilagi. "It was a great way to end the season with Leicester. Losing the last two finals made it a lot better to win the third time."

There was a celebration on the team bus back home to Leicester afterwards followed by the pain of an early start the following morning to get back to London and Lions duties. The Samoan-born Tuilagi, the youngest of six rugby playing brothers, will be joined in Australia by his parents, with his father relishing the chance of seeing his son in a Lions shirt.

"Leading up to this year every time I spoke to him he was like 'when are the Lions getting picked?'" said Tuilagi.

"I had to say 'Dad that's not this year, it's next year'. When I found out I was in I couldn't wait to tell him."

Life and Style
tech
Arts and Entertainment
Robin Thicke's video for 'Blurred Lines' has been criticised for condoning rape
music
News
Paper trail: the wedding photograph found in the rubble after 9/11 – it took Elizabeth Keefe 13 years to find the people in it
newsWho are the people in this photo? It took Elizabeth Stringer Keefe 13 years to find out
Arts and Entertainment
Matt Damon as Jason Bourne in The Bourne Ultimatum (2007)
filmMatt Damon in talks to return
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
peopleThe report and photo dedicated to the actress’s decolletage has, unsurprisingly, provoked anger
Arts and Entertainment
Evil eye: Douglas Adams in 'mad genius' pose
booksNew biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Life and Style
tech... and together they're worth at least £100 million
Arts and Entertainment
While many films were released, few managed to match the success of James Bond blockbuster 'Skyfall'
filmsDaniel Craig is believed to be donning skies as 007 for the first time
Arts and Entertainment
Fringe show: 'Cilla', with Sheridan Smith in the title role and Aneurin Barnard as her future husband Bobby Willis
tvEllen E Jones on ITV's 'Cilla'
Life and Style
Bono and Apple CEO Tim Cook announced U2's surprise new album at the iPhone 6 launch
tech(but you can't escape: Bono is always on your iPhone)
Sport
Tim Wiese
sport
Life and Style
Kim Kardashian drawn backlash over her sexy swimsuit selfie, called 'disgusting' and 'nasty'
fashionCritics say magazine only pays attention to fashion trends among rich, white women
Arts and Entertainment
TVShows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Arts and Entertainment
Hit the roof: hot-tub cinema east London
architectureFrom pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week