Samoan-born Tuilagi is among a number of players with overseas heritage who are looking to repeat the heroics of Martin Johnson’s 2003 Webb Ellis Trophy winners by sweeping all before them in Japan.
Also represented to varying degrees are Fiji, Tonga, Nigeria and the United States, while Lewis Ludlam’s background is a mix of Guyanese, Palestinian and Egyptian. “I definitely think it helps. There’s a lot of different backgrounds in the team,” Tuilagi said.
“The most important thing is that you have to be a part of the team, but where you come from helps because it brings all of your experience from your culture. There’s definitely a feeling in the team that it doesn’t matter where you’re from. We’re all here for the same reason and we want to achieve the same goal.
“For me, it shouldn’t be any different to anywhere else, whether that’s sport or outside of sport. As long as you all have the same goal, it doesn’t matter. It’s a team sport and as long as everyone does their job, you do your job and your mate does his job, then it all comes together.”
Tuilagi has overcome years of significant injury setbacks and disciplinary issues to make his first appearance at a World Cup since 2011.“I didn’t think I’d be here in this position again. It’s a massive step in terms of trying to get back and play well.
“Twenty-eleven feels like a long, long time ago in terms of rugby. I’ve been out with all the injuries, so I’m just thankful that I’m still playing. Between 2011 and this one there were a lot of dark days. To just be able to go out and train and then do what I love on the weekend is the main thing for me.
“What is so exciting is to be around the players that we have. There’s something special within this group of players and I’m excited to see where we can take this.”