‘It happened to me’ – Manu Tuilagi warned about special Samoan treatment

Samoan-born England centre Manu Tuilagi has been warned that special treatment awaits him when the Red Rose face Manu Samoa in the Rugby World Cup.

Tuilagi’s siblings Henry, Tuilagi, Tuilagi, Sanele Vavae and Anitelea all represented Manu Samoa during their playing days.

Because of his links to Samoa, his teammate Billy Vunipola has warned that he can expect a Samoan onslaught when the two sides clash on October 7.

Vunipola, the England number eight of Tongan heritage, has first-hand experience during the 2019 World Cup when he was targeted by Polynesian opposition with a point to prove.

32-year-old Tuilagi moved to the UK from the Pacific island when he was 13, and even though he remains proud of his origins, Vunipola expects him to have a target on his back at Stade Pierre-Mauroy.

“I know for a fact that the Samoan boys, as much as they respect and hold Manu in high regard for what he has done for exposure in his heritage, they will want to go after him,” Vunipola said.

“Everyone knows Manu can look after himself, but we will be right next to him, trying to help as much as we can because they will be ready and waiting.

“It happened to me at the last World Cup against Tonga when I remember getting put on my backside. I looked up, and everyone was cheering on the side of the pitch like they won the game.

“I am on the other side of it, but if I were to put myself in a Tongan shirt, I would think, ‘let’s go get this Tongan kid or who thinks he’s a Tongan kid even if he is on the other side’.

“That’s how I would think if I was in the Tonga team, but I am not. I still remember the image of them cheering on the bench, and it made me laugh. You just have to accept it and move on.”