Tuilagi makes mark as Stoddart dream ended
Debutant Tuilagi celebrates scoring his first England try Photo: Getty
The 20-year-old had impressed sporadically in the first half of his Test debut, making ground with his ball-carrying in attack and performing his defensive duties with the relish you'd expect of a player born in Samoa.
But the manner in which he accelerated onto Jonny Wilkinson's pass three minutes into the second half, barged through two Welsh defenders and held off Stoddart's despairing tackle to score under the posts illustrated the force of nature Martin Johnson has on his hands.
Johnson was measured in his praise afterwards, calling it a "pretty good" debut. But he wouldn't be human if he wasn't inwardly thrilled at the possibilities that a player Wilkinson has already labelled 'the future of the game' can bring to his squad's repertoire.
While tougher tests await, and major World Cup matches are not considered a place for inexperience, the bare minimum the youngster provided was a case for his manager to take stock of his options in the midfield department.
Johnson also mentioned in dispatches Armitage and Matt Stevens, who both probably booked their seats on the plane to New Zealand with solid all-round displays.
But he reserved his warmest praise for Jonny Wilkinson, who showed why his game management - and ability to put points on the board at crucial moments - is still highly valued, whether from the start of a match or in the later stages off the bench.
Johnson refused to be drawn on whether the golden one's man-of-the-match outing had been sufficient to cause him to revise his preference for Toby Flood starting at 10. "Jonny doesn't have to prove to me that he can start a Test, there has never been any doubt about that," he said.
But assuming Flood gets his opportunity in Cardiff next week, it will be intriguing to see who gets the nod for England's final warm-up match in Dublin on 27 August, when Johnson is expected to play as close to the side as possible that he intends to use in their opening Wold Cup match against Argentina on 10 September.
He will also be mightily relieved if the "tweak" to the right knee that forced Lewis Moody out of the action proves to be just that, and nothing more.
Injuries have a habit of taking a little longer to heal than expected in Moody's case, and Johnson - despite asserting he has yet to choose his World Cup captain - will want his experienced flanker back in harness sooner rather than later.
Wales must focus on the positives despite Stoddart's sickening leg break. Photo: Getty
Wales took the glass half-full approach to this defeat, as well they might.
With the obvious exception of Stoddart's desperate misfortune, there was plenty for Warren Gatland and his coaches to be encouraged about.
Considering they were forced into a late change to their side with the withdrawal of Stephen Jones, the match also produced another World Cup contender in Rhys Priestland, who rightly drew praise from Gatland for the composure he showed on his first Test start at fly-half.
As so often down the years, the Welsh looked more likely to score with ball in hand than England, and outscored their hosts three to two. There was a patience and composure about their approach work for all three tries that has not always been apparent.
The benefits of their two intense training camps in Poland were evident in how strongly they finished the game. Physically they competed well, even if England had the upper hand in the set-pieces.
As Sam Warburton, their superb captain who was denied two more scores, put it: "There was plenty of chat coming from our side in the last 20 minutes. England were pretty flat, hanging on. It makes it pretty exciting for the home game."
The two meet again at the Millennium Stadium next Saturday, when both sides will look different.
Wales will hope to give some of their front-line players - Gethin Jenkins, Adam Jones, Lee Byrne, James Hook - some game-time as they work their way back to full fitness. England will probably recall at least half-a-dozen of their Six Nations-winning line-up.
Injuries aside, this was a positive first step on the road to the World Cup for both countries.
You can also follow me on Twitter at http://twitter.com/BBCBrynPalmer