Steve Borthwick ‘hopeful’ Manu Tuilagi stays in England ahead of potential Six Nations farewell

Tuilagi will feature off the bench in what could be his final appearance in an England shirt

Harry Latham-Coyle
Friday 15 March 2024 07:30 GMT
Manu Tuilagi could depart English rugby in the summer
Manu Tuilagi could depart English rugby in the summer (Getty Images)

Steve Borthwick is “hopeful” that Manu Tuilagi may yet stay in England and continue his international career ahead of what could be a Test farewell for the centre.

Tuilagi, who will feature off the bench against France in Lyon on Saturday, has been strongly linked with a move abroad throughout his career and is again the subject of interest from France, with Bayonne and Montpellier among his suitors.

The 32-year-old appears set to leave Sale Sharks, who would struggle to retain him within the Premiership’s salary cap.

Any move overseas would render Tuilagi unavailable to Borthwick under Rugby Football Union (RFU) regulations that state that a player must be playing their club rugby in England to be considered for the national side.

Borthwick suggested that he would be keen to keep Tuilagi as part of his squad but recognises that it is ultimately the player’s decision to make.

“I’m hopeful that he’ll be staying in England,” Borthwick said ahead of his side’s final Six Nations fixture. “There are no plans confirmed as yet to my understanding.

Manu Tuilagi is set for his first appearance of this Six Nations campaign
Manu Tuilagi is set for his first appearance of this Six Nations campaign (PA)

“Manu adds huge amounts to this squad, he’s a player who impacts upon people and he impacts upon games, and I’m looking forward to seeing him impact upon this game on Saturday night.

“Ultimately, that’s up to Manu and the opportunities that present themselves within England. From my point of view, he knows I would want him to be in England; I want all our best players playing in England.”

Tuilagi made his England debut in 2011 and has been an enduring key figure despite prolonged periods of injury woe.

Having started in Borthwick’s first-choice side throughout the World Cup, his chances of pressing for a place in this campaign were hampered by a groin injury that ruled him out of the first two rounds, and he has been unable to displace Ollie Lawrence and Henry Slade from England’s midfield since returning ahead of the encounter with Scotland.

A popular figure in the squad, Borthwick paid tribute to Tuilagi’s qualities on and off the pitch ahead of what may yet prove his final outing in England white.

“What I see in Manu is that he’s a brilliant influence on the young players,” Borthwick explained. “We’ve got a number of young players in this squad and he takes the time and care with them to help them, passes his knowledge on.

“He’s socially robust within the group, he’s brilliant at bringing people together. He’s the one at the coffee machine standing making coffee for everyone to sit, chat, and spend time with each other. He brings people together.

Manu Tuilagi is a popular figure within England’s squad
Manu Tuilagi is a popular figure within England’s squad (Getty Images)

“I always think the very best players make the other players around them better. The very best players make everyone else be five per cent or 10 per cent better, because of their presence. And Manu has that effect. I think the players around him are better because of his presence. And that’s been on the training field, and this weekend it will be in the matchday 23. So I can’t wait to see his impact on the players and then his impact when he comes on to the pitch.”

Tuilagi’s nephew, Posolo, will feature for France’s Under 20s against their English counterparts in Pau on Friday night having made his senior debut earlier in the Six Nations.

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