Just 4 days after making his return to the England squad, the RFU today announced that Manu Tuilagi had been sent home from the England camp alongside Denny Solomona over “team culture issues”.
Tuilagi had looked set to make a return to the international side for the first time since 2016, receiving praise from head coach Eddie Jones, who had insisted he was open to picking the Leicester Tigers centre as soon as the Autumn internationals.
Yet, maybe a leopard just can’t change its spots. After yet another disciplinary issue, could we have seen the last of the controversial figure in an England shirt?
Since making his senior Leicester Tigers debut in 2010, Tuilagi’s career has been plagued by off-field issues, starting with the revelation that he had spent 6 years in the country on an expired visa. The years since have seen the Samoan born powerhouse banned for punching Chris Ashton, fined for diving off an Auckland ferry and pranking the Prime Minister at a British and Irish Lions event at Downing Street.
As we’ve seen from his handling of Dylan Hartley, Eddie Jones is more than happy to forget previous issues and hand controversial players a clean slate on arrival but the no nonsense Australian won’t appreciate having his show of faith made to look misguided within a matter of days.
Tuilagi (pictured right) is far from the first rugby player to have got in trouble for a drink related discrepancy, but falling back into bad habits just days after returning to the set up is less than ideal, for all parties involved.
Respect and a positive team culture help form the backbone of what the sport of rugby stands for, and we are sadly seeing more and more players pushing the boundaries of what has always set rugby apart from other sports. Back chatting to the ref or getting caught out on the piss while on team duty have long been associated with the “beautiful game” of football and that’s where it needs to stay.
Tuilagi’s actions have let his team mates down, betrayed the faith put in him by his coach and damaged the team culture and winning mentality that Jones has worked so hard to put in place since arriving at Twickers in 2015. So it’s right that Manu and Solomona were shown the door, in my opinion.
It’s a shame to see such a talented individual waste his potential due to stupid behaviour on and off the field, and he risks following in the footsteps of fellow England international Danny Cipriani (right) or Wales’ finest rugby prodigy turned wannabe reality star Gavin Henson, in wasting the best part of his rugby playing career.
At 26, Tuiliagi has the chance of turning things around, but he needs to concentrate on his game and knuckle down off the field if he hopes to convince Eddie Jones that he’s responsible enough to step up and play again for the Red Roses.