Rugby World Cup 2011: Tuilagi tipped to star for England

Former England player Richard Cockerill says Manu Tuilagi could be "the star" of the 2011 Rugby World Cup.

Cockerill, who is director of rugby at Tuilagi's club Leicester Tigers, has called on England manager Martin Johnson to play him in New Zealand.

"I think England have got to start him and, if he gets that opportunity, he could well be the star of the World Cup," said Cockerill.

Tuilagi, 20, scored a try on his debut in a win over Wales in August.

He is pushing for a start in England's final warm-up game against Ireland in Dublin on Saturday.

Samoa-born Tuilagi normally plays at outside centre but Cockerill said the player could be an option for England in the number 12 jersey.

"For me, he'd have to start somewhere in the England side whether that's 12 or 13 or he could even play on the wing," he said.

"He gives you that bit of an X-factor, he will score a try from nothing, as you saw against Wales. It was the deciding factor in the game.

"If he's given his head to play, he could certainly be one of the stars of the World Cup."

Cockerill, who won 27 caps for England, said Tuilagi has the strength to compete with the most powerful players at the World Cup, including All Blacks Ma'a Nonu and Sonny Bill Williams.

"Physically, bar none, he's as good as anyone," he added.

"Nonu or Sonny Bill or any of those big South African centres that want to run at him, he'll hit you and he'll knock you over."

Tuilagi is the youngest member of Johnson's 30-man England squad for New Zealand.