COMMENT: England's desire to be inglorious bastards reaches new low with Manu Tuilagi selection
Eddie Jones wants England to play in the spirit of Martin Johnson's England.
I say Martin Johnson, not Clive Woodward, because the Leicester lock was the black, beating heart of an English team that won at all costs.
It was both easy and hard to dislike that England team [circa 2000-2003]. They were a bunch of hard, uncompromising bastards with some great players - Jonny Wilkinson, Will Greenwood and Jason Robinson - in the backline.
The summit of their stubborn nastiness arrived in Dublin, in 2003, when they took Ireland's spot on the red carpet and forced President Mary McAleese onto the grass to greet the national team. They thrashed Ireland that day and won the Grand Slam.
Easy to hate but hard not to admire.
Since 2003 there has been a sole Six Nations title. When that generation of amateur-to-pro players retired, England lost that edge. They were hard but not hard enough. Willing to die but not prepared to kill.
Eddie Jones had his battles with those dogged England teams of the past. He is mere months in the job but is hell-bent on returning them to their former gory glory.
Dylan Hartley as captain, Owen Farrell making punishing hits across the backline, Joe Marler back and mouthing off, Dan Cole with his back up and James Haskell taking scalps. Jones' England is missing one key ingredient: a backline bulldozer.
How unfortunate it is, then, to see Manu Tuilagi back and threatening to take either Farrell or Jonathan Joseph's jersey.
In my opinion, Tuilagi should have been made to stew a while longer on the sidelines and out of the picture.
Last April, Tuilagi was charged with two counts of assaulting a police officer, assault by beating and causing criminal damage to a taxi. He pled guilty to the charges, paid a fine of £6,205 and was suspended from international duty until January.
Tuilagi, a court was told, grabbed a taxi driver by the throat, kicked a wing mirror off his vehicle and then shoved two female police officers who tried to caution him.
There was a four year gap between jumping off the back of an Auckland ferry after England's World Cup elimination, in 2011. Chastened then. Chastened again.
Tuilagi took the guilty plea then told the press he was not guilty.
"We pleaded guilty because hopefully we wanted to get the case finished and done with," he told reporters last September.
One imagines that an innocent man would have fought harder to protect his good name. But, then again, he was up against the word of a taxi driver and two officers of the law.
I am not suggesting that Tuilagi should never play for England again. However, it rankles that Jones and his fellow coaches were so eager to get him back in the national set-up.
Had he been fit in January, the Leicester centre would have been straight in there.
Two massive hits from Leicester centre Manu Tuilagi in their premiership game against Exeter Chiefs. #bighit pic.twitter.com/kKffvqNTTs
— EatSleepRugby (@eatsleeprugby) March 8, 2016
Jones is blithely disregarding the fact that players, employed by clubs and honoured by national selection, are supposed to be role models. Or at least that's the perception that's trotted out by the English media and the sporting bodies as they pursue sponsorship pay packets.
The fact that Tuilagi has shown zero remorse has left him a busted flush in that regard.
The ends justify the means, it seems.
Jones, and England, have prioritised victory over any lasting sense of honour.
History may remember them as inglorious bastards but, one suspects, Eddie Jones could not give a flying f**k.