Manu Tuilagi insists he is innocent of assaulting two female police officers and has been 'harshly treated' despite pleading guilty

Tuilagi was found guilty of assaulting two female police officers and a taxi driver in May

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The Independent Online

Manu Tuilagi has pleaded his innocence over the incident with two female police officers that cost him his place at the Rugby World Cup, despite pleading guilty to the offence in court in May.

The Leicester Tigers centre was in a race against time to be fit for the World Cup when it emerged that he had been found guilty of assaulting two female police officers and a taxi driver on a night out, resulting in England head coach Stuart Lancaster dropping Tuilagi until January and subsequently ruling him out of the Rugby World Cup, which begins in one week.

However, Tuilagi has spoken out to try and remove the tarnish to his reputation and has claimed that he has been “harshly treated” during the judicial process, with his guilty plea an attempt to bring the matter to a quick conclusion.

 

“I always own up to what I’ve done, but I feel with this one like I’ve owned up to what I’ve not done,” Tuilagi said at the premiere of the Pacific Warriors film in London on Thursday night. “That’s why I feel it’s important to get my side of the story out. I didn’t assault any of the police officers. It looks like I have basically beaten up the two police officers which is not the case, but unfortunately it’s out there and it’s what I’ve got to deal with.”

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Leicester and England centre Manu Tuilagi

Tuilagi admitted that he was involved in a confrontation with a taxi driver during a night out in Leicester city centre with his brothers and friends on 26 April, but insists that he was grabbed by the two police officers and did not assault them.

“We started walking down the road trying to get another taxi and that is when the two police officers came along,” Tuilagi added. “They came up to me from behind and I felt someone try to grab my hands so I just pulled my hands away.

“That’s it. Basically, that is assault. You can just touch someone and that is assault.”

When asked if the police officers touched him first, Tuilagi answered: “Absolutely. I had no idea [they were police officers]. That’s out there and that’s why I want to get my side of the story out.”

Listen to Tuilagi below...

 

Had Tuilagi pleaded not guilty to the charge, he says the court case would have been adjourned until midway through the World Cup, which would have given Lancaster a difficult decision to make had he proven his fitness after missing nearly the entire 2014/15 season.

“We wanted to get the case finished and done with,” he added. “That was the plan; to go in, plead guilty and finish the case on that day, which we did – we finished it. If we’d gone in and not pleaded guilty, it would have been adjourned until right in the middle of the World Cup.”

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Lancaster spoke with Tuilagi a day before his court hearing

But the prospect of the Samoan-born centre being fit in time to play in the World Cup and the three preceding warm-up matches looked to be doomed to fail by Tuilagi’s own admission, and he now believes that he may not return to action for the Tigers until 2016.

 

“The physios at the Tigers are not putting a date on it,” he explained. “We're taking it monthly because we've been trying to get back two or three times. After being nearly there, it gets back to where we started. This time we're taking it really, really slow.

“Hopefully [a return by] Christmas, but I've been out for this long now, why rush.”

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