Tuilagi in stand-off with Le­ices­ter over new con­tract

Cen­tre could at­tract move abroad to meet salary hopes Eng­land team-mates Ford and Genge ac­cept new terms

The Daily Telegraph - Business - - Sport - By Char­lie Mor­gan and Gavin Mairs

Manu Tuilagi and Le­ices­ter are in­volved in a con­tract tus­sle with the Eng­land cen­tre re­fus­ing to ac­cept a pay cut, al­though his in­ter­na­tional team­mates El­lis Genge and Ge­orge Ford have ac­cepted the club’s new terms.

Le­ices­ter had set their play­ing squad a dead­line of 5pm yes­ter­day evening to sign new con­tracts but it is be­lieved Tuilagi (left) is dig­ging in his heels, rais­ing fears he might move abroad, which would ef­fec­tively end the 29-year-old’s Eng­land ca­reer.

Manu Tuilagi is locked in a con­tract stale­mate with Le­ices­ter af­ter as many as six play­ers missed their club’s dead­line to agree new deals.

Le­ices­ter had given their squad un­til 5pm yes­ter­day to ac­cept re­duced salaries and al­though Ge­orge Ford and El­lis Genge signed new terms it is un­der­stood that Tuilagi, their Eng­land col­league, dug in his heels.

Al­though the 29-year-old cen­tre would be the sub­ject of in­ter­est from French clubs, as he has been at var­i­ous times over re­cent years, find­ing an­other Pre­mier­ship suitor able to match his re­ported salary of £500,000 a year would at this junc­ture be vir­tu­ally im­pos­si­ble beNorthamp­ton of fi­nan­cial con­straints at other top-flight clubs.

“I don’t know of any Pre­mier­ship clubs keen to spend any money at the mo­ment,” a source at one Pre­mier­ship club said, re­fer­ring to how the Covid-19 pan­demic and this month’s salary-cap re­duc­tion have squeezed bud­gets across the league.

A move abroad would put Tuilagi’s 43-cap Eng­land ca­reer on hold – and quite pos­si­bly at an end – given the Rugby Foot­ball Union’s pol­icy of re­strict­ing se­lec­tion to Pre­mier­ship play­ers.

Ford and Genge, both of whom fea­tured at the 2019 World Cup and in this year’s Six Na­tions, signed lu­cra­tive deals with Le­ices­ter at the end of last year.

Genge, who had been earn­ing close to £400,000 per sea­son, is un­der­stood to have ac­cepted an an­nual pay cut of about £100,000 as part of a one-year ex­ten­sion to his cur­rent deal.

He had seemed to revel in the un­cer­tainty among cu­ri­ous Le­ices­ter sup­port­ers yes­ter­day, mis­chie­vously tweet­ing emo­jis of a crois­sant and a sushi roll in re­sponse to spec­u­la­tion he could head for Ja­pan.

His friend Ja­mal Ford-Robin­son, the Glouces­ter tight­head prop, had even tweeted: “Genge to France. Con­firmed,” and then: “Genge to Ja­pan. Con­firmed.” Genge, 25, has, in fact, opted to stay at Welford Road un­til 2023.

To­mas La­vanini, the Ar­gentina lock, is an­other in­ter­na­tional un­der­stood to have agreed terms, but it is be­lieved that Greg Bate­man, Kyle East­mond, Noel Reid, Jordan Tau­fua and Telusa Veainu all missed Le­ices­ter’s dead­line along with Tuilagi.

Ex­plo­sive back-rower Tau­fua, al­ready a pop­u­lar fig­ure among sup­port­ers de­spite only ar­riv­ing for the 2019-20 cam­paign, has been linked with the rev­o­lu­tion at cashrich sec­ond-tier French team Beziers.

It will cer­tainly be a bap­tism of fire for Steve Borth­wick, the former Eng­land for­wards coach, who starts life as Le­ices­ter head coach to­day, while Ge­or­dan Murphy moves into a dif­fer­ent job as di­rec­tor of rugby.

Aled Wal­ters, who played a key role in South Africa’s World Cup suc­cess last year as head of phys­i­cal per­for­mance, takes on the same role at Le­ices­ter, who also have a new at­tack coach in Rob Tay­lor.

Jaco Taute, the Le­ices­ter cen­tre, in­sisted that the on­go­ing con­tract ne­go­ti­a­tions at Welford Road had not dis­rupted train­ing, which has ob­served stage-one so­cial dis­tanc­ing pro­to­cols at Oval Park.

“I think from the start of the Covid pan­demic, the sit­u­a­tion has been tough for ev­ery­one,” Taute said. “Not just in­side rugby cir­cles – all over the world, all over the UK, ev­ery­where. It has been a mas­sive fi­nan­cial im­pli­ca­tion for ev­ery­one.

“The club has been great in talk­ing to guys. Ev­ery­one has in­di­vid­ual cir­cum­stances, rang­ing from an academy player to [some­one] play­ing his last year.

Con­tracts: Manu Tuilagi may have played his last game for Le­ices­ter af­ter re­ject­ing a new deal, but Ge­orge Ford (left) signed up to re­main at Welford Road

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