Manu Tuilagi assault: England centre to miss Rugby World Cup after pleading guilty to assaulting a police officer

Tuilagi will miss the home World Cup in September and October and has not played since October 2014

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The Independent Online

Manu Tuilagi has been ruled out of the Rugby World Cup after the Leicester Tigers and England centre pleaded guilty to assaulting a police officer, it has been confirmed.

The 23-year-old has not not played since being forced off in Leicester’s European Champions Cup fixture against Ulster in October, and his place in Stuart Lancaster’s England squad had been placed in jeopardy before the assaul.

Tuilagi has been suffering from a long-term groin injury that had already ended his participation in the Tigers’ Premiership campaign this season, but there was a hope that he would recover in time to feature in some of England’s Rugby World Cup warm-up campaign, with the host nation set face France twice and Ireland.

 

Tuilagi was a part of the England squad that was knocked out in the quarter-finals of the 2011 Rugby World Cup under Martin Johnson’s leadership. He was also in the British and Irish Lions squad for the 2013 Tour of Australia, in which he came off the bench for the third and final Test.

An incident involving Tuilagi, a  taxi driver and a police officer took place weeks ago, with England head coach Lancaster informing the 25-time capped centre that he will miss the World Cup later this year if he was found guilty.

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Tuilagi has not played for England since June 2014

On Thursday, Tuilagi pleaded guilty to three charges of assault and one of criminal damage, and he will not be considered for England selection again until January 2016.

In a joint-statement released by the RFU and Leicester, it was confirmed that Tuilagi will not play any part in the tournament later this year.

"England Rugby and Leicester Tigers have taken action against Manu Tuilagi following his conviction on three charges of assault and one of criminal damage," the statement read.

"Tuilagi pleaded guilty at Leicester Magistrates this week and was ordered to pay the court a total of £6,205 in fines, compensation, charges and costs.

"England Head Coach Stuart Lancaster has spoken to Tuilagi and informed him that, in the light of his conduct and subsequent conviction, he will not be considered for selection for England's Elite Playing Squads until January 2016."

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Tuilagi had returned for Leicester at the start of the year only to suffer a setback

Tuilagi said that he takes "full responsibility" for the incident and apologised to those involved, as well as his club and country.

“I take full responsibility for my actions and unreservedly apologise to all those involved in the incident, Leicester Tigers and England," Tuilagi said.

"It is something I deeply regret and I totally accept the sentence given by the court. The club and Stuart have been very supportive and I understand their sanctions too.

"I know, as an England player, the need to conduct myself as a good role model for the game. I am very disappointed because my actions have let so many people down and I can only hope for a future chance to prove myself again.”

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Stuart Lancaster has dropped Tuilagi until January 2016

Lancaster explained that given his squad's duty to present themselves as role models for the public, he was left with no option than to drop him from all national team squads until next year.

“As role models and ambassadors for the game, the highest standards of behaviour are expected from every England player both on and off the field," said Lancaster.

"Having spoken to Manu, he understands and accepts both the seriousness of the offences to which he has pleaded guilty and the consequences of his behaviour to his club, country and the game as a whole.

"England will continue to liaise with Leicester Tigers and have every confidence that the club will continue to support Manu in the right way.”

Lancaster has shown in the past that he will take disciplinary action where necessary, having omitted Danny Care from the England squad for the 2012 Six Nations after he pleaded guilty to a drink driving charge.

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Richard Cockerill has confirmed that he will face 'internal disciplinary action'

Leicester Tigers director of rugby Richard Cockerill added: “Manu knows and accepts his responsibilities and has received a significant punishment in being excluded from the England squad and the club will also take internal disciplinary action.

"While we do not in any way condone his actions in this case, Manu is a young man who has grown up in the public eye and he is a good professional in a top-level environment.

"He always gives his time very generously to supporters, particularly young ones, wherever he goes, and fully understands the role that the fans have played in his career.

"We will continue to work closely with him on his return to full fitness and look forward to his return to the field in due course.”

Tuilagi was embroiled in controversy following the 2011 Rugby World Cup in New Zealand, when he was spoken to by police after jumping off a ferry in a Auckland harbour. He was also fined £3,000.

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