Manu Tuilagi laughs off adversity after 14-man England grind out win

Tom Curry was sent off after three minutes but England still beat the Pumas 27-10.

Duncan Bech
Sunday 10 September 2023 22:00 BST
Manu Tuilagi was happy with England’s work against Argentina (Mike Egerton/PA)
Manu Tuilagi was happy with England’s work against Argentina (Mike Egerton/PA)

Manu Tuilagi insists England will continue to laugh in the face of adversity after reacting to their latest disciplinary crisis by delivering one of the nation’s great acts of defiance on a rugby field.

Argentina were routed 27-10 in a pivotal World Cup opener despite England playing all but three minutes of the Stade Velodrome clash with 14 men because of Tom Curry’s red card for a dangerous tackle.

Curry’s disciplinary hearing takes place on Tuesday night when he will learn how much of the group campaign he is to miss, with fixtures against Japan, Chile and Samoa to come.

England have now had four players sent off in six Tests – each of them for dangerous tackles – and an indicator of their regularity was seen in Tuilagi’s response when his Sale team-mate was given his marching orders.

“To be honest I was sort of smiling and laughing because we’ve had a tough preparation,” said centre Tuilagi, who packed down in the scrum in Curry’s absence.

“We’ve had a lot of challenges that life has thrown towards us. But just because we’ve had a lot of challenges it doesn’t mean they are going to stop. That’s life and you’ve just got to find a way to deal with it.

“Tomorrow’s going to be different – a new day, a new challenge. So we’ve talked about the belief and the trust that you’ve got to have in each other.

“Our preparation wasn’t the best, but we worked so hard to get here so it’s time to just go out there and enjoy our rugby, not think about the past and the future.”

At the heart of a victory that places England in control of Pool D was George Ford, the fly-half who wielded the knife as the abject Pumas were subjected to death by a thousand cuts.

Ford landed three drop-goals and six penalties, as well as delivering a tactical masterclass, while around him the likes of Courtney Lawes, Ben Earl and Maro Itoje outfought Argentina even while Curry watched from the stands.

Tuilagi marvels at “our kid” Ford, another Sale colleague who is helping put Manchester back on the rugby map.

“George is unbelievable. He’s a player who has been there and done it all. We look to him in tough times and he stepped up against Argentina,” Tuilagi said.

“He deserves everything he’s got because he’s worked so hard to get back and play well.

“He’s a mastermind. He lives and breathes rugby. And he loves it. Having the love of what you do means you enjoy it. It wasn’t perfect but that’s life, it can never be perfect.”

England are mindful of remaining clear-eyed about a stirring win founded on resilience and smart rugby, but also notable for the impotency of the attack.

The humidity made the ball slippery but that failed to account for the failure to convert a five-on-two overlap in the second half.

For now, however, England will celebrate an important win secured despite an abysmal warm-up campaign and which builds momentum ahead of Sunday’s clash with Japan in Lille.

“This definitely makes working on things a bit better. When we go back to the drawing board on Monday, it’s better to learn on a win than from losing,” Tuilagi said.

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