13 The Daily Telegraph Friday 3 July 2020 *** Sport Rugby Union Tuilagi determined to stay in Premiership to save England place On Wednesday, a source suggested that the names of Tuilagi and flanker Jordan Taufua, also linked with a departure from Leicester, had been circulating among French clubs. However, there was a “strong feeling that he will stay in the UK” among French recruiters yesterday, both because very few Top 14 clubs would be able to meet his market value and because squads are close to being settled ahead of the 202021 season’s start in September. Given the Rugby Football Union’s If the centre successfully claims for damages from Leicester, he could recoup some of the difference from his hefty Tigers wages while, crucially, remaining available to England. His representatives are believed to be exploring that possibility while sounding out potential Premiership suitors. Though squad budgets have been squeezed around the country by the Covid-19 pandemic and salary-cap reduction, Tuilagi could be a cutprice wild-card for any team chasing the Premiership title. selection policy, a move abroad would put Tuilagi’s England career on hold and possibly end it, given his age and the midfield talent available to Eddie Jones. When rugby union does restart after an extended hiatus, Jones’s side can look forward to a run of fixtures between October and November following the conclusion of the Premiership campaign. There is also the matter of a Lions tour to South Africa next year and, though Tuilagi would be eligible while playing club rugby across the Channel, Test appearances would offer a window to demonstrate his form and match fitness to head coach Warren Gatland. Tuilagi’s exit from Leicester would end a remarkable 20-year association between his family and the club, which started when brother Freddie arrived from rugby league club St Helens in 2000. Four more siblings, Henry, Alesana, Anitelea and Vavae, have been associated with Tigers, as have Fred and Brian – the sons of Freddie. By Charlie Morgan Manu Tuilagi’s desire to play for England and tour South Africa with the British and Irish Lions next summer is likely to keep him in the Premiership, even if he leaves Leicester. The Daily Telegraph understands that 29-year-old Tuilagi, set to exit Leicester after failing to agree amended terms with the club, would be willing to take a drastic pay cut to move elsewhere in England and prolong his Test career. Interview Meet the man ensuring Lions have ‘no excuses’ in South Africa History boys: Jeremy Guscott (left), Martin Johnson (centre) and Neil Jenkins the last time the Lions won a South Africa tour series in 1997 By Gavin Mairs lost or taken to a decider. “That week needs to be no-excuses week. You don’t want to be rushing players around like fools,” he says. A short recreational trip, similar to Noosa in 2013 and Queenstown four years later, has also been planned ahead of the third Test. Phillips, who won 18 caps for Wales, has drawn on his own experience of touring South Africa with the Lions as a hooker on the 1980 tour and he is determined that the players should embrace the country. “I want to take the players to have a barbecue in the field after their games against the Sharks, the Bulls and the Stormers, as those players will never play against the Lions again. It is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” he says. “I want it to be like an oldfashioned tour and have some food and a drink with them afterwards. Why would we rush back to our own hotel? I want the players to experience South Africa. “We can’t always be the best team on the pitch, sometimes on the day the other team plays better, but we can strive to be the best team off the field in how we deal with sponsors, the media and the opposition and the supporters. “I think it will be a great shame if everyone doesn’t come back from South Africa and say, ‘What a great trip that was.’ If that happens, we will have failed.” Phillips’s optimism is founded on the fact that, for the first time in the professional era, the Lions management team have had a direct input into not only the fixture schedule, but also in mapping out a detailed itinerary of hotels, training grounds, social engagements and excursions. The Lions are to confirm that the original tour schedule remains in place despite negotiations over the global calendar, and an announcement is expected following a World Rugby council meeting in mid-July. While securing extra preparation time from Premiership Rugby remains a contentious issue, Phillips is optimistic that, unlike for the tour of New Zealand four years ago, there is a much greater emphasis on the players’ needs as opposed to commercial demands. The key to this, according to Phillips, was the decision to appoint Gatland for the third time as Lions head coach in June last year, more than a year earlier than his appointment ahead of the tours of Australia in 2013 and New Zealand in 2017. “When Warren was offered the job as head coach again, I told him he should get involved with organising the fixtures, because the feeling about the last tour to New Zealand was that it had moved away from rugby and was more about commercialism,” Phillips says. “This time it was important to make sure that while you have to look after your sponsors, you have to do it in a smarter way. In fairness, Warren and Ben [Calveley, the Lions managing director] have been involved in this schedule and the set-up is perfect.” If the schedule suits the Lions, including the build-up of matches to give them 10 days’ preparation at high altitude before the first Test in Johannesburg, Phillips has been central to the meticulous planning. His wealth of experience of touring South Africa with Wales gave him a head start; so, too, his intuitive understanding of Gatland’s needs. “In 12 years working together he has only called me a d------- twice,” he laughs. Just days after stepping down from his job with the Welsh Rugby Union, Phillips travelled to South Africa for two weeks in December to assess every aspect of the tour, claiming he wanted to “dip his bread in their gravy” of South Africa while they were still on a high South Africa 2021 Lions tour schedule Alan Phillips is leaving no stone unturned as he oversees the details that he believes will make next year’s tour a success July 17 July 3 v Bulls; Loftus Versfeld, Pretoria v DHL Stormers; Cape Town Stadium July 7 I July 24 v South Africa Invitational XV; Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium, Port Elizabeth t is one year to go to the day until the British and Irish Lions are due to play the first fixture of their tour of South Africa, and remarkably, despite the unforeseen challenges caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, the logistical preparations are already at an advanced stage. “The tour has been set up to succeed,” says Alan Phillips (right), the Lions director of operations, who was appointed last November after stepping down from 17 years as the Wales team manager. “We wanted to ensure that this time there would be no excuses. Of course, it will be down to Warren Gatland, his coaching team and the players, but I can’t see any arguments from them about the way it has been set up.” v Springboks; FNB Stadium, Johannesburg July 31 July 10 v Springboks; Cape Town Stadium v Sharks; Jonsson Kings Park, Durban Aug 7 July 14 v Springboks; Emirates Airline Park, Johannesburg v South Africa A; Mbombela Stadium, Mbombela from their World Cup triumph. “I looked at the set-up for every hotel, team room, every training ground, every gym, every swimming pool and all the stadiums we are playing in,” he says. “We had blackouts, too – electricity cuts – so it was a great experience to find out what the back-up plan is. Hotels can be told that between 6pm and 8pm there is no electricity in that area, so I had to check if they had generators.” Phillips has deliberately chosen a quiet hotel near their training ground for the second Test in Cape Town, when the series can be won,
© PressReader. All rights reserved.