Tuilagi: Queue of high-profile suitors growing by the day
SPOTLIGHT: Sale Sharks and Bristol Bears are ‘chasing hard’ for the signature of Leicester Tigers centre Manu Tuilagi, who dramatically departed the club this week after failing to take a pay cut contract this week.
Tuilagi’s shock exit from Welford Road – seemingly bringing to an end two decades of Tuilagi family player involvement at the Steve Borthwick coached side – has been the talk of English rugby.
But he won’t lack for suitors.
One source has told RugbyPass that a lucrative offer from Japan is already on the table. However, leaving England will almost certainly end his England career and could potentially end his chances of touring with the British and Irish Lions in their 2021 of South Africa.
Earlier in the week RugbyPass reported that Toulouse is leading the French charge for the player. The club’s recruitment has been relatively light to date and aristocrats of French rugby could prove more attractive to the English centre than the likes of Racing 92 – who he has snubbed at least once – or Beziers, who are still, for now, in the ProD2.
Staying in the Gallagher Premiership, for the time being at least, could yet be the most likely scenario.
Steve Diamond’s Sale are eager to lure the England centre north, and could offer him a relatively local landing spot just 100 miles up the road. Sharks had an acrimonious parting with Chris Ashton mid-season, free-ing up significant cash and salary-cap space to fund a potential move. The Daily Mail reported last week reported that Tuilagi could potentially have his Sale contract topped up by Leicester to meet the terms of his current Tigers’ contract, said to be worth £500,000 per season.
He wouldn’t be the first Tuilagi to play centre for Sale, with older brother Anitelea earning 29 caps for the Sharks between 2008 and 2011.
Meanwhile, Pat Lam’s Bristol Bears are also pursuing the 29-year-old. The billionaire-backed club is inevitably linked with high profile players from around the globe, but RugbyPass understands that the club has genuine designs on the Samoan born back.
The Bears lost the services of hard-running, big body centre Will Hurrell due to a stroke in January, and Lam may feel the opportunity of adding a world-class operator to their current list of specialist centres – which includes Siale Piutau, Piers O’Connor and Sam Bedlow – is one he can’t turn up.
Meanwhile, The Telegraph is reporting that he could yet stay at Welford Road, with “11th-hour” talks continuing between Tuilagi and his now-former club’s management still ongoing. Tuilagi, who has been at Leicester his entire career, could be prepared to do a u-turn.
It really looks like the England star can have his pick.