Manu Tuilagi: Overseas move would halt England career, says RFU

By Chris JonesBBC rugby union correspondent
Manu Tuilagi
Manu Tuilagi has won 43 Test caps for England

The Rugby Football Union has no plans to change the rules regarding foreign-based players if Manu Tuilagi was to move abroad following his Leicester Tigers departure.

Tuilagi is set to leave Welford Road after failing to agree terms on an amended contract.

While it is understood his representatives are investigating a move to another Premiership club, the 29-year-old may be forced to look overseas.

However, the RFU says it has no intention of relaxing the regulation which prevents those who play abroad from being picked for England.

"The current rules and regulations apply and there are no plans to change them," said an RFU source.

The policy regarding overseas-based players was established in 2010 and came into effect after the 2011 World Cup.

While there is an "exceptional circumstances" clause, this only applies in the event of a significant injury crisis.

Centre of attention

After a number of injury-plagued years, Tuilagi was one of England's most consistent performers in 2019, and was a key part of the side that reached the final of the Rugby World Cup in November.

Earlier in the year, Tuilagi had turned down a big-money move to France to stay at Leicester, signing a lucrative deal that still has a year left to run.

Manu Tuilagi
Tuilagi made his Leicester debut in September 2010

However, like most clubs the Tigers have been badly hit by the financial impact of the coronavirus pandemic, making more than 30 redundancies in an attempt to cover a £5m loss in revenue.

After initially taking a 25% pay cut, the players were asked to sign revised contracts earlier this week if they wanted to stay at the club.

Along with five other first-team regulars, Tuilagi failed to agree terms, appearing to end his family's 20-year association with the Tigers.

However, with Leicester's Premiership rivals also experiencing financial difficulties, as well as already settling on their squads for the next salary cap year, a cut-price domestic move appears Tuilagi's only hope of prolonging his international career.

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