Tuilagi Fires Fiji Warning
Giant Samoan wing Alesana "Bulldozer" Tuilagi on Saturday urged his teammates to create space for his thunderous runs against Fiji after he was kept unusually quiet in the World Cup loss to Wales.
Tuilagi, whose 121kg, 1.94-metre (267 pounds, six foot four) frame has drawn comparisons with All Blacks great Jonah Lomu, said he was shackled during the 17-10 loss to Wales and wanted more space in Sunday's all-Pacific clash.
Last week in Hamilton, the 30-year-old Tuilagi was repeatedly gang-tackled by Wales before he could build up a head of steam, in a frustrating afternoon after his destructive hat-trick against Namibia just days earlier.
But he said it was up to the rest of the team to give him space to operate against Fiji, who are expected to mix flamboyant passing with bone-jarring physicality in a hotly anticipated clash in Pool D.
"It depends whether our team goes forward if there's going to be more space out wide for me. Hopefully it happen on Sunday," Tuilagi said.
"It's all from our teammates. Once we go forward we've got lots of space out wide for me, and Wales defended really well to stop the ball coming out wide.
"I had to go inside and look for the ball - it's part of the game," he shrugged.
The Leicester Tigers wing said Sunday's match at 60,000-seat Eden Park, which is set to be packed with fervent fans from Auckland's Pacific island communities, would simply come down to who wants it more.
"We've played many times against Fiji so every time we're against them there's big rivalry between us. It's whoever wants to win on the day because we both play physical games," he said.
Samoa have set the stage for a bone-crunching battle by giving a first start of this World Cup to Census Johnston, Toulouse's 135kg monster prop who impressed as a late replacement against Wales.
Johnston, also aged 30, laid out a chilling Samoan game plan - to starve Fiji's silky backs of the ball by simply demolishing their forwards.
"With the backs that the Fijians have, you have to smash them up front," he said.
"I'm not too sure whether that's the thinking of the coaches, but for me that's my job."
Samoa lost 36-18 when they played Fiji in July, but they then shocked Australia in Sydney and led Wales at half-time last week before tiring in the second half - just four days after their previous game against Namibia.
"When you play any island team you know you're going to have a physical battle on the day and for me it's whoever makes the least mistakes and who's the strongest on the day," Johnston said.
"We played Fiji a couple of months back and they beat us by a few points. We let their backs run a lot so we have to try to negate that. And the only way to negate that is to smash them in the forwards."