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Manu Tuilagi spent his childhood watching the All Blacks, dreaming of one day becoming the next Jonah Lomu. On Saturday, he will attempt to be the executor of their downfall.
The Samoa-born centre was not the first nor the last to dream of emulating the late great New Zealand wing, having seen Tonga-born Lomu tread the same path that he would later follow in leaving the Pacific Islands for the riches of a tier one nation.
Yet in what he admits will be the biggest match not just of his own career but of each and every one of his teammates, Tuilagi will attempt to do what 18 teams have tried and failed to do – and beat the All Blacks.
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“You always watch the All Blacks back in Samoa,” said Tuilagi, who is set to return to outside centre this Saturday with George Ford coming back into the side. “It was Super 12 back in the day. We watched all the All Blacks players in that tournament. It is exciting now to be playing against them.
“Big Jonah, I was a massive fan. Just the way he played, no-one plays like him. He was a big legend of the game. You try [to be him] but you don’t succeed.”
For Tuilagi, Saturday’s Rugby World Cup semi-final could come full circle. Incredibly it was a nearly seven years ago that Tuilagi was part of the last England side the defeat New Zealand. Twice they hav
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