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Peter Betham backs Manu Tuilagi to shine for England

By all accounts, Manu Tuilagi is England’s No.12 in waiting – and the man who linked up with him in midfield on Sunday is expecting fireworks.

Peter Betham has spent much of his first season with Leicester Tigers out on the wing but the Australian international shifted to his preferred No.13 jersey against Exeter Chiefs last time out.

On his inside was Tuilagi, fully fit at last and in an unfamiliar role at inside centre, and the duo each crossed the whitewash in a 31-27 victory.

Next up for Betham and his Tigers teammates is a trip to Wasps, while Tuilagi has linked up with Eddie Jones’ England for their Six Nations clash with Wales.

Tuilagi has not featured for the Red Rose since June 2014 but he is in line to end the long wait at Twickenham on Saturday – quite possibly in his new role at inside centre.

“He has taken to it really well,” said Betham. “I don’t think teams have seen how versatile he is – he has a subtle side to his game, his passing game and his kicking game.

“I think he is ready to get back to the big stage and I am just hoping he isn’t this good when England play against Australia!

“He definitely brings a lot of power to our team and our back line. He is a force to be reckoned with and I’m happy just picking up his leftovers.

“Initially I was definitely up for the challenge of playing outside centre and especially being outside of Manu – being with him opened up quite a few corridors for me.

“I enjoy playing 13 and being outside of a world-class player like Manu was great for me.”

While Tuilagi is readjusting to life at the top level, Leicester will be hoping to further reel in the Aviva Premiership Rugby leaders.

The second-placed Chiefs are now just five points better off than the Tigers after their defeat on Sunday, while table-topping Saracens were also beaten at the weekend, by Northampton Saints.

And with a trip to Wasps – the league’s in-form side – next on the agenda, Betham is hoping to repeat the performance that saw Leicester open up a 31-6 lead against Exeter at the weekend, not the second-half showing that almost saw the visitors complete a remarkable comeback.

“Sunday was a good in terms of putting in our structures and our set-piece defence,” he added.

“We were confident in our ability and for 50 minutes we showed what we can do but we let them in at the end.

“I’m not too sure there were nerves, it was just a frustration that we couldn’t get ourselves back into the game and on the front foot.”
 

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