Wilkinson, the Toulon fly-half, has played against Tuilagi's four elder brothers in his time and so knew what to expect when he hooked up with the 20-year-old centre in the England camp.
Freddie, Henry, Alesana and Anitelea are all fearsome, hard-hitting internationals in the best traditions of Samoan rugby.
However, Wilkinson thinks the youngest brother could be the best of the lot - a player combining Samoan power with the qualities of England legend Jason Robinson and current New Zealand star Sonny-Bill Williams.
"Manu has that aura about him, that Jason Robinson uniqueness about his ability to impact on a game," said Wilkinson, who returns to the England starting line-up at fly-half.
"When someone has that ability as an individual to change a game you know he has to be special. I saw it a bit in Toulon with Sonny-Bill Williams.
"He has the power, the speed and he reads the game incredibly well. His focus is very sharp, he doesn't drop off.
"You'd think he's all about running over people but he has got the footwork and the passing skills and he can kick a ball pretty well.
"You have to sit back and acknowledge that you are seeing the future of the game right here, with this breed of youngster coming through."
Wilkinson's assessment carries some weight, given that he always chooses his words carefully and tends to shy away from making bold statements.
England manager Martin Johnson, who has now selected 12 different centres for his 31 Tests in charge, called Tuilagi an "explosive player".
"He likes to come out of the line and hit people and he can carry the ball very powerfully," said Johnson.
"He is not just a power runner. He has good skills and good rugby awareness. He is an exciting 20-year-old. He has all the talents to develop into a top player."
Tuilagi's selection is all the more remarkable given that he was fighting deportation from the country this time last year.
It emerged in June 2010 that Tuilagi - by this stage an England age-group international - had arrived as a 13-year-old schoolboy on a six-month holiday visa.
After weeks of lobbying from Leicester, the Rugby Football Union and three MPs, the Home Office eventually gave Tuilagi special dispensation to stay.
His career has skyrocketed since, with Tuilagi named Aviva Premiership young player of the year for his debut-season exploits with Leicester.
The season ended on a sour note, though, when he was banned for punching Chris Ashton, with the subsequent suspension ruling Tuilagi out of the final.
Even so, Johnson has no qualms about thrusting him into a Test match environment.
"Can he handle the pressure of Test match rugby? I think he'll be fine. That is the next step for him," said Johnson.
"Dealing with the intensity of Test matches is big, guys have to be exposed to that spotlight but he has handled everything well. He hasn't looked overawed at any point."
Despite living with his elder brother Alesana, who is currently with the Samoan World Cup squad, Tuilagi had no qualms about choosing to play his international rugby with England.
"No it wasn't a difficult decision. I grew up here and all my rugby was here. I played England Under-16s, 18s and 20s and if you play for those age groups then obviously you want to get to the top," said Tuilagi.
"I consider myself fully English as a rugby player - but that Samoan side to just come out the line and smash people, you never lose it. It's good fun."
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