The case of England's injury-prone Manu Tuilagi
IN THE SPOTLIGHT: Whether you’re of a superstitious bent or not, it’s hard not to see Manu Tuilagi as a cursed rugby player.
Bedevilled by injury, Tuilagi’s latest set back- which came after just seven minutes on the field against Wasps at Welford Road – reads like the latest line in a rather unpleasant and nauseatingly repetitive joke.
The 26-year-old appears to have become a glass man, incapable of playing the game for any length of time. Watching the stricken centre visibly upset on the bench was a pitiful sight.
His playing statistics suggest a patchwork career of sporadic games in between bouts of injury and the occasional suspension. Sunday’s game against Wasps was his eighth consecutive start for Tigers, his longest string of games in five years.
He has made just 29 appearances for Leicester Tigers in the last four seasons, which works out at slightly over 7 appearances a season.
Since making his debut for Tigers in 2010, he has made 103 appearances, averaging a little under 13 appearances a season across all competitions.
In fact, his early years at Tigers were relatively robust ones. He played 20 times in the Premiership and 4 times in the then Cup in his first season (2010/11).
His second season was less fruitful – 10 Premiership and two European starts were his return for 2011/12.
Internationally he won seven caps for England and featured heavily in the 2011 RWC.
A hamstring problem ruled him out of two Six Nations games in 2012, but he did go on to make 10 appearances for England during the year.
In 2012/13 things picked up for Leicester too. He played 21 times across both club competitions. However, 2013 took a turn for the worse on the injuries front.
His first major injury came when he tore a pectoral muscle at the start of 2013/14 season, which would rule him out for 6 months. He did manage four Six Nations games, 9 Premiership games and one game in Europe that season.
2014/15 was a grim season for the Samoan born centre. A minor groin injury in September reoccurred just a month later and he wouldn’t play again until 15 months later in 2016.
Upon return, he made 8 appearances in the Premiership and 4 in Europe. A knee injury in the ECPR semi-final against Racing in April 2016 was followed by a groin strain in his comeback match in the Premiership semi-final against Saracens. It ruled him out of England’s tour to Australia.
Across 2016 Tuilagi made just one start for England and it was the last time he has worn the Red Rose.
2016/17 wasn’t much brighter, with just 5 Premiership appearances and two European outings for his club. Again a groin injury waylaid his 110kg frame in the opening match of the season, before a knee injury in January would rule him out for a further 6 months.
2017/18 opened in by now classic Tuilagi style. He strained the meniscus in his left knee during Leicester’s Premiership opener against Bath, before seeing a ‘witch doctor’ in a rather desperate bid to rid himself of his injury woes.
After stringing an at this stage miraculous eight games back to back, it looks like the blockbusting centre has again injured a pectoral muscle.
He has played 26 times for England and once for the British and Irish Lions, a poor return for one of the most gifted rugby players to don an England jersey.