England vs Italy: Stuart Lancaster must ponder whether Manu Tuliagi and Jonathan Joseph fit in the same team

Tuilagi has been Lancaster's go-to outside centre - when fit - but Joseph is showing himself to be undroppable

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The Independent Online

The form of Jonathan Joseph is giving England head coach Stuart Lancaster a major problem. Manu Tuilagi is the outside centre of choice – when fit – for England because he has the kind of power to splinter any defence. However, Joseph is a real threat as a clever runner and unlike Tuilagi, he aims for space rather than bodies and his two tries in the this demolition of a game but limited Italy team  neatly showcased his full range of skills.

Could he end up on the wing outside Tuilagi? Possibly. But what do you then do with Anthony Watson if Mike Brown is the first choice full-back?

On this form Joseph has to play but you can say the same about Watson and while it is a nice problem for Lancaster to have in World Cup year, deciding on how you construct your defence is a complex equation now made so much tougher by the Joseph formula.


Pick Tuilagi and you get someone who gets over the gain line almost every time you have the ball , however, throw Joseph into the mix and they could be a potent force as outside centre and wing. That would remove Joseph from the mid-field  where he is a real threat thanks to quick feet and real desire to go for the break. The six tries England scored against Italy were made special by the Joseph brace and allowed England to make a 15-5 half time score line look so much better.

England created far more opportunities in the second half but will no doubt want to talk about the three tries they allowed Italy to score. Defence matters and if England are to win the Six Nations and even a Grand Slam they will need to tighten this up before heading to Dublin to face Ireland, the reigning champions.

There were mitigating factors to explain some of England’s back play problems during the first half following Mike Brown’s heavy knock to the head. Billy Twelvetrees came into the centre from the bench,  Joseph went onto the wing, Luther Burrell moved to outside centre from 12 and Watson took over at full back.

While the Joseph try was created with this line up after 27 minutes, England were too arrogant in some of their attacking ambition. Instead of starting to show off their handling and pace inside the Italy half, they tried to create scores from their own 22 rather than use George Ford’s boot to gain ground.

Manu Tuilagi has been the regular outside centre for England

One ill-advised long range attempt was halted before Burrell had reached the 22m line and a better team would have really punished England. But, Italy are not able to deliver that kind of repeated score and although the opening 40mins featured as much attacking flair as England could muster, it was always going to be a case of when the wheels fell off the Italian attacking machine.

They eventually did to allow England a 30 point winning margin but not enough to allow England to feel totally satisfied with their performance.