Where to begin when you hear the name Manu Tuilagi? So many words can be used to describe the man. When he first burst onto the scene you could use terms such as flamboyant, powerful, great potential, future England legend. As of recently however, many would use terms such as naïve, ignorant and foolish.
When Samoan-born Tuilagi first burst onto the scene in the 2010-11 season, you couldn’t help but think ‘wow, this boys going to go far.’ He possessed every trait needed to be an excellent back; brute strength, power and speed needed to break through opposition lines and he knew when to offload. You simply couldn’t ask for more attributes as a rugby player really, could you?
In the Premiership Semi-Final that year however, we also saw the other side to Tuilagi – the unwanted side. Tuilagi received a yellow card for punching England Team mate Chris Ashton and was banned for five weeks. Unfortunately, you could say that this was a sign of things to come.
For those who haven’t seen it, here’s Tuilagi’s punch on Ashton: http://t.co/YX0L0r9I The right hander was worse than Hore’s. Five week ban!
— Mike Kilpatrick (@mikekilpatrick) November 29, 2012
Several incidents have followed Tuilagi since that season like a bad smell. You could say he’s become the Mario Balotelli of rugby, but the most recent incident, assaulting two police officers, has seen him removed from Stuart Lancaster’s 2015 World Cup squad. Subsequently, this has led to Tuilagi being linked with French clubs Toulouse and most recently Racing Metro.
Lancaster’s overseas policy
The RFU chief executive Ian Ritchie has openly voiced that the RFU will continue to stand firm on their policy of not allowing players, such as the likes of Steffon Armitage, to play for England who are based overseas, and Tuilagi would be no exception to this; but would it actually be such a bad thing? Personally, I feel that a move to France could actually benefit both parties.
For Tuilagi, it will give him a chance to get out of the spotlight somewhat, away from all the commotion in the British press and will allow him to focus purely on his rugby.
It’s obvious to see that the Top 14 league is a league that is now a very attractive opportunity for English players, so much so that David Strettle has withdrawn himself from the world cup squad to settle his family after signing for Clermont Auvergne. It is also a league in which English players have the potential to thrive in.
— BBC Sport (@BBCSport) June 23, 2015
New country, new team, new attitude
Players such as the Armitage brothers and even Jonny Wilkinson have performed exceptionally in recent years. Many would regard Steffon Armitage as the one of the best number 8’s in the world right now and I feel that Tuilagi could develop into one of the world’s best centres in France, especially if he were to play alongside Jamie Roberts at Racing Metro.
Also, If he were to take a 3 year contract at either of the French sides then that would allow time for Tuilagi to return to England in time top put himself in contention for the 2019 World Cup and potentially resurrect his England career.
For England, there are countless options in the centre position that can more than replace the missing Tuilagi. Jonathan Joseph’s emergence to replace at this year’s six nations was a sight to behold and makes me even more excited for this year’s world cup. His partnership with Luther Burrell in the centre was also a talking point from this years six nations, and will be given the chance to blossom at the World Cup.
— BBC Sport (@BBCSport) May 14, 2015
With no Tuilagi, the likes of Joseph, Burrell, Kyle Eastmond, Billy Twelvetrees, and the one and only Sam Burgess have more of a chance of breaking through to the first team squad and I’m optimistic they will all get their chance and have a positive impact on the team.
Whatever the outcome I hope that his omission from the England World Cup squad has a lasting effect on Tuilagi. Hopefully, he will now see that his actions have consequences and will learn from it, it would be such a shame to see such raw talent wasted. Otherwise we could have another Gavin Henson on our hands, and no one wants to see that again.
What do you think about Tuilagi’s potential move? Let us know in the comments below.