Tuilagi moves from inside centre where he started the 69-3 victory over Tonga that launched the Autumn Nations Series, displacing Adam Radwan and creating space in midfield for Marcus Smith and Owen Farrell.
His only previous Test appearance in the position came under the previous England regime on tour to New Zealand in 2014 when a lack of pace was exposed and the experiment was immediately abandoned.
But Jones insists the 30-year-old wrecking ball is now in peak condition having recently clocked his top speed on GPS and will make an impact by operating as an additional centre instructed to maraud across the pitch.
“I have seen Manu play on the wing and he can handle 12, 13, 11, 14 – he can handle all of those with aplomb,” Jones said.
“I see a powerful player who’s probably in the best condition of his career, who will add to the ball players we’ve got inside and will finish off the movements that we have. He’ll be able to roam on the field, play like a second or third centre.
“Last season Gael Fickou played on the wing for France and was outstanding. The game lends itself to a powerhouse centre so we’re looking forward to him playing there.”
Henry Slade was a candidate to make way for the return of Farrell, who was ruled out against Tonga by a false-positive coronavirus test, but his man-of-the-match performance last Saturday made a compelling case for his retention at outside centre.
Excitement continues to build over Smith after he inspired a late flurry of tries in a cameo appearance and against Australia he takes centre stage as Jones gets his wish of seeing the Harlequins ringmaster alongside Farrell.
“Marcus knows he’s got to build his game. I’ve been really impressed by him since I started working with him on a daily basis since the summer tour,” Jones said.
“He’s progressing in a nice way but it’s his biggest test because he hasn’t played a tier one country yet.”
England’s pack remains unchanged with Maro Itoje set to win his 50th cap, while a six-two split on the bench between forwards and backs sees a return for Sam Simmonds, who is poised to make his first Red Rose appearance since 2018.
“We think its going to be a pretty high-volume game, it usually is against Australia, with a lot of work in the forwards,” Jones said.
“Sam Simmonds and Alex Dombrandt give us flexibility and variety in terms of their skills and we think they will add to the mix in the last 20 minutes.
“England v Australia games at Twickenham always seem to fall in the last 20 minutes and I don’t think this game will be any different.”
Since replacing former Leeds player and coach Stuart Lancaster as head coach in 2015, Jones has masterminded seven wins from as many outings against Australia but he understands what the fixture means to the nation of his birth.
“I know as an Australian that it’s probably hard for the English to understand what an important game this is for Australia,” he said.
“It doesn’t matter whether it’s the Olympics, Test cricket, rugby league... this is the game that defines their season.
“This is the game they want to win. We have bit of an inferiority complex against the English, the Australians.”
Jones has written to British tennis sensation Emma Raducanu to explain his widely criticised comments that she has been overburdened by commercial “distractions” in the wake of her US Open victory.
“It’s not for me to judge that. The comments weren’t made in that spirit at all,” Jones said on Thursday.
“We’ve sent a private letter to Emma to make sure she understands why they were made. As far as I’m concerned it’s the end of the matter.
“The point was that it’s very difficult for young players in the UK and I made that point for a reason – because I think it is.
“We don’t want them to be distracted and that was the only purpose of that comment.”
Smith has the opportunity to continue his own meteoric rise after being promoted to the starting XV for Saturday’s Autumn Nations Series clash with Australia.
It will be the first time he has played alongside Owen Farrell, the inside centre who returns after sitting out the Tonga rout because of a false-positive Covid test, and the biggest challenge of his young career awaits.
Smith’s three caps have been won against the USA, Canada and Tonga and Jones insists the Wallabies present a significant hurdle in his development from rising star to genuine Test fly-half.
“It’s big. We’re playing against the side that’s recently beaten world champions South Africa twice,” said Jones, who has picked Manu Tuilagi on the right wing to accommodate the Smith-Farrell axis.
“It’s a huge step but is he capable of doing it? Of course he is. He’ll rise to the challenge and handle it well, but it’s a big step for him.
“We believe Marcus and Owen are going to be a really good combination – not just for this game but in the future.”
Jones has masterminded seven wins from as many outings against Australia as England boss, but he understands what the fixture means to the nation of his birth.
“This is the game they want win. We have bit of an inferiority complex against the English, the Australians,” Jones said.
“We have always looked at England as the mother country. Our country started as convicts being sent down there so we have always looked up to England.
“I remember as a kid we would stand around for the anthem and it was God Save the Queen.
“We were the smaller country of England so when we played them in sport it was an opportunity to prove we were not the smaller country.”
England: Steward; Tuilagi, Slade, Farrell (capt) May; Smith, Youngs; Genge, George, Sinckler, Itoje, Hill, Lawes, Underhill, Curry. Replacements: Blamire, Rodd, Stuart, Ewels, Dombrandt, Simmonds, Quirke, Malins.