Tuilagi and five other contract rebels may seek damages from Leicester
Manu Tuilagi and four other players who missed Leicester Tigers’ contract deadline on Tuesday have engaged lawyers and will explore the possibility of claiming damages from the club.
Tuilagi, whose Test career would be thrust into doubt were he to leave, and five others spent yesterday waiting for a letter from the Leicester board to inform them they would be “stood down”.
Chief executive Andrea Pinchen last night confirmed that five players – Greg Bateman, Kyle Eastmond, Noel Reid, Tuilagi and Telusa Veainu – had not agreed new terms. The players are sounding out other clubs around the world with a view to organising a move, with most resigned to leaving the East Midlands.
It is understood that back-rower Jordan Taufua is also likely to depart.
One senior source at Leicester claimed that Tuilagi and has not been engaged in negotiations, whereas George Ford and Ellis Genge – both of whom have agreed to stay with Tigers – were far more active prior to settling for pay cuts of around 25 per cent on extended deals.
French media outlets have immediately claimed that the 29-yearold centre might be a target for ambitious Beziers, who could be one of the clubs able to match his wages of about £500,000.
Taufua, already popular among supporters despite having only arrived at the beginning of the 2019-20 season, was also linked with the French club this week.
“The names of Tuilagi and Taufua are indeed circulating in the offices of certain presidents in France,” a source confirmed.
Veainu, the Tonga full-back who was named Rugby Players’ Association players’ player of the year for the 2017-18 Premiership season, is thought to be in the final stages of sealing a move to Stade Francais.
Leicester players have felt as though the club’s stance on cut-price deals amid the Covid-19 pandemic, and the Premiership’s subsequent salary-cap reduction, has been overly forceful.
One source close to the dispute suggested that, while other Premiership clubs – notably local rivals Northampton Saints – had seemed cooperative in their approach to budget-squeezing, Leicester players have been frustrated by the threatening nature of discussions. Senior members of the board, such as majority shareholder Tom Scott, have come in for fierce private criticism, even if recently appointed Pinchen remains a trusted and respected figure. “The way the club has acted over could cost them the biggest player they have ever had in Manu,” a source close to the club said. Tigers released a statement from the board yesterday that suggested the pandemic had impacted Leicester, currently engaged in a process of redundancies, “more than most” because of the size of their Welford Road stadium and fan base. They had lost £5million from being unable to stage matches or other events. “Difficult decisions have had to be made, including salary reductions, reduced working time and using the furlough scheme, as well as a redundancy process which concludes today and could potentially lead to the departure of up to 31 staff,” the statement read.