The winger showed off the skills to match his more obvious strength and speed and left Italy in his considerable wake
Blue is not the colour to wear at Twickenham. This was the 29th time England have hosted a Six Nations Test against Italy, France and Scotland and – surprise, surprise – it duly produced a 28th success for the red rose. Whether their opponents opt for navy, midnight, sapphire or cornflower, the prevailing pattern is generally the same.
To make things even worse the poor old Azzurri were also up against an English side boasting a scary amount of heavy artillery. If some of the Italian tackling was as soft as buffalo mozzarella there was no disputing the strengths of the human bison rampaging past them. Trying to keep Joe Cokanasiga and Manu Tuilagi in check, with Ben Te’o, Ellis Genge, Billy Vunipola and Kyle Sinckler queuing up behind them to inflict further damage, is not an assignment for the fainthearted.
Big is not always beautiful, in life or in rugby, but here was Eddie Jones’s ultimate fantasy made flesh. Sterner tests – and Tests – clearly await but if winning the collisions is the aim of the game England are increasingly formidable. In Tuilagi and Cokanasiga, in particular, they have giants capable of giving anyone a sleepless night. On this evidence the bruise brothers will undoubtedly be invited back to inflict further punishment.Advertisement
Whether it will be enough to deprive Wales of the championship title is another matter but Jones now knows he has an extra World Cup turbo gear at his disposal, particularly when Mako Vunipola and Maro Itoje are back fit. Tuilagi had previously barely featured in the tournament; suddenly he was everywhere, making up for all the lost years. Cokanasiga is just 21 and playing in his first Six Nations but this powerful performance will have sent a shiver down the spines of every other English winger with World Cup ambitions. If big Joe stays fit, England really could have their very own Jonah Lomu.
Even Lomu never packed down at No 8 in the scrum in a Test match, as Cokanasiga did in the second quarter. He also has the footballing skills to match his prodigious frame and obvious speed, as showcased when Owen Farrell hoisted a diagonal punt in his direction with barely a minute of the game gone. The Bath winger, defying all known laws of gravity, soared skywards and caught the ball before flicking it behind him, one-handed, to the supporting Tom Curry. The flanker should have hung on but, like everyone else in the stadium, was probably still gawping at what he had just seen.
At such moments it was hard to dispute Jones’s penchant for almighty bosh right across his backline. Crucially, however, England also have Elliot Daly to do a spot of piano-playing amid all the heavy percussion; it was the electric full‑back who left three defenders eating grass in the buildup to Jonny May’s first score. By half-time England were already 31-7 ahead and well worth their huge lead.
For maximum effect they should have played Massive Attack over the public address system at the interval but, frankly, the message to the rest of the world had already been delivered loud and clear. Give England the ball and they now have the personnel to cause serious carnage. Tuilagi’s second try was a prime example; even before Jamie George’s long pass reached him there was an air of total inevitability about the Leicester centre’s assured finish. How England would love the chance of another crack at Wales to erase their Cardiff frustrations and firmly set the record straight.
Instead it is now Scotland’s turn to try to dodge Twickenham’s blue hoodoo. The only previous Six Nations exception to the rule, incidentally, was in 2005 when France staged an improbable recovery from 17-6 down at half‑time to win 18-17 courtesy of six missed England penalties. If the Scots wish to avoid singing the blues yet again next Saturday, it may be wise to arrive wearing a different hue.