Tuilagi on a high

Manu Tuilagi says he is playing catch up on his first British & Irish Lions Tour but insists ending the domestic season on a major high has left him in good spirits following the squad's arrival in Hong Kong. [more]

Tuilagi on a high

Manu Tuilagi says he is playing catch up on his first British & Irish Lions Tour but insists ending the domestic season on a major high has left him in good spirits following the squad’s arrival in Hong Kong.

Tuilagi was one of six Lions who starred for Leicester as the Tigers claimed a 10th English title with victory over East Midlands rivals Northampton Saints on Saturday.

The Twickenham showdown meant the England centre and club colleagues Tom Croft, Dan Cole, Geoff Parling, Ben Youngs and Tom Youngs missed the recent Lions training camps in Wales and Ireland and are therefore unlikely to start against the Barbarians in Hong Kong this weekend.

Tuilagi, who was a try scorer in the Aviva Premiership showpiece, admits that he has to get up to speed in double quick time but wouldn’t have wanted to miss out on Leicester’s latest championship crown.

"It was a great way to end the season with Leicester and now I'm looking forward to the Lions Tour,” said Tuilagi.

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"Losing the last two finals meant it felt a lot better winning the third time. It was a great feeling.

"We celebrated the win as it had been what we have been aiming for. The boys got together on the bus home after the game and had a few drinks, but some of us had to be up early in the morning to join the Lions.

“The squad's been in camp for two weeks so those of us who came down on Sunday have been getting up to speed. We had a sit down with Owen Farrell and Jamie Roberts who told us what we need to know.

“The talent we have here in the team is massive. I came in and watched training and it looked really sharp –  that is the level you have to be at.

“You have to be on your game the whole time, training and competing for places in the team. It will be a massive challenge, but that’s what you like, to take on that challenge.”

Tuilagi may have been born in Samoa but he knew all about The Lions when he was growing up.

His parents told him tales of Britain and Ireland’s elite and they, and plenty of other family members, will be heading to Australia next month.

The 22-year-old will understandably be a very proud man when he pulls on the famous red jersey for the first time and he insists he wouldn’t care what number he had on his back as long as he gets to represent all four Home Nations.

“My dad always talked about The Lions. I watched the Living with the Lions DVD and I have been aware of The Lions the whole time,” added Tuilagi.

“Growing up my dad loved them and leading up to this year he always asked 'when are The Lions being picked?'. I told him 'dad, it's not this year it's next year!'

“When I found out I was involved I couldn't wait to ring him and tell him. My mum and dad are going to come to Australia and the whole family will be there.

"Being in the squad is a dream come true for me and now it is all about being ready to play.

“I'd play back row if I had to! Just being with the Lions is a huge honour. If you get the opportunity to play anywhere, you don't turn it down.”

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