To'omua dishes dirt on former teammates ahead of England showdown

Rugby World Cup
Beth Newman Profile
by Beth Newman

After three years in Leicester, Matt To’omua’s inside knowledge of the England camp rivals that of any Wallaby and the playmaker was more than happy to dish the dirt on some of his former teammates ahead of Saturday’s quarter-final showdown.

To’omua spent three seasons with the Tigers, playing alongside England’s George Ford, Manu Tuilagi, Dan Cole, Johnny May and Ben Youngs, before signing a deal to return to Super Rugby with the Melbourne Rebels at the end of the 2018-19 European season.

This is the first time he has come across the group on the field since moving back to Australia, To’omua was quick to list off the shortcomings of four of his former Tiger teammates when asked on Thursday.

“I was very fortunate to play with all of them there,” he said.

“I know all their weaknesses luckily and I have been telling everyone.

“I will list them now for you if you want.

Matt To'omua and George Ford were a playmaking duo in England. Photo: Getty Images“Manu is a terrible snooker player, George Ford never pays for a beer, Ben Youngs isn’t even the best rugby player in his family, let alone the country.

“The chicken, Jonny May, very weird and Dan Cole doesn’t have a personality.”

On the more serious side, To’omua only had glowing praise to give

Mammoth centre Manu Tuilagi, who will be deployed at inside centre for England in a bid to combat Australia’s own centre weapon Samu Kerevi,

While Tulagi's career has often been hindered with injuy, To'omua said Tuilagi's big-game nature would be well and truly on display in the quarter-final.

“We were fortunate for the last couple of years when he came back from injury, we just saw him grow in stature and I think he probably grows the bigger the game as well,” he said.

“He probably plays his best rugby in Tests, and that’s the sign of a true champion player.

“Obviously I have been sharing the knowledge I have got on them as well but the thing is with guys like that, there are no glaring weaknesses.”

To’omua said restricting Tuilagi might be more manageable with his move to inside centre, as the Wallabies vie to close in on the big man.

“Anyone like him you have to shut down time and space obviously,” he said.

“But as I said, you can’t focus too much. A guy like Henry Slade, I can’t see a weakness in his game.

“He is a strong runner, passer, kicker and he has the left foot as well.

“Obviously Manu is a name that sticks out for a lot of reasons, he is a strong carrier and makes a lot of big plays.

“But it is probably trying to shut down his time and space.

“ He is at 12 now so he is a bit closer to the play, so it might be a little easier in that sense however I am sure they’re working out ways to give him some ball one-on-one at full steam.”

George Ford will come off the bench for England. Photo: WalmsleyTuilagi’s move to 12 has come at the cost of Ford and To’omua admitted his surprise at seeing the latter dropped to the pine.

“He’s been brilliant the last couple of years. But teams nowadays really are using that 23 mentality, particularly at the World Cup,” he said.

“We just spoke about it before in terms of the finishers, and the role they play.

“You are probably talking 20 or 30 minutes now which is a good chunk of the game, and the game is often in the balance at that time.”

To’omua said he expected Ford to bring an injection of speed into the game.

“You can assume that George will come on and pick the pace up,” he said.

“Go back to 2016 I think Goerge started off the bench in Brisbane and when he came on it completely changed.”

Australia takes on England in their Rugby World Cup quarter-final on Saturday October 19, at Oita Stadium, kicking off at 4:15pm local, 6:15pm AEDT, LIVE on Foxtel, Network Ten and via RADIO, Rugby Xplorer and Amazon Alexa.