We don’t know the specific reasons behind Manu Tuilagi’s expulsion from the England squad on rather vague grounds of “team culture issues”. What we do know is that the maverick centre has ‘previous’…
At the age of 26, Tuilagi has accumulated just 26 caps in the six years since making his professional debut. A combination of persistent injury problems and ill-discipline has curtailed his appearances for both England and his club, Leicester.
England head coach Eddie Jones has also sent home Sale wing Denny Solomona amid speculation that alcohol was to blame for the pair’s expulsion but with confirmation of the nature of their misdemeanours yet to emerge, here’s a history of Tuilagi’s controversies.
Threatened with deportation, June 2010
Manu Tuilagi outstayed his holiday visa by almost six years before being granted permission to stay in the UK. Julian Finney/Getty Images
The precocious Tuilagi initially entered the UK on a six-month holiday visa. His five older brothers — Henry, Freddie, Alesana, Anitelea and Vavae — qualified for working permits by virtue of having played international rugby for Samoa.
With the Home Office on his tail for outstaying his welcome by some six years, Tuilagi said: “For a month, I was just waiting for the police to knock on my door and arrest me.” Despite his precarious situation, Tuilagi ignored the advice of his lawyer to help Leicester beat South Africa 22-17 on television and earned permission to stay.
The Ashton incident, May 2011
Tuilagi was banned for five weeks following his altercation with Chris Ashton. Stu Forster/Getty Images
One of the more blatant and most famous punch-ups to take place on a rugby field, the 2011 Aviva Premiership semifinal between Leicester and Northampton will be forever remembered for Tuilagi’s ugly assault on Chris Ashton.
The Saints wing sparked the clash by pushing a prone Tuilagi, prompting the centre to climb to his feet and unleash two left hooks and a shuddering right cross. Ashton won praise for staying on his feet, while Tuilagi won a five-week ban (reduced from 10). Months later, the pair would become England teammates.
Letting his mouthguard down, October 2011
Tuilagi was fined at the 2011 Rugby World Cup for wearing a sponsored mouthguard. Getty
Even during the group stages of the 2011 Rugby World Cup in New Zealand, Tuilagi was ruffling feathers — on this occasion for his use of a sponsored mouthguard, which was prohibited by the authorities.
World Rugby slapped Tuilagi with a £4,800 ban after Tuilagi was spotted sporting a logo-marked gumshield during the clashes against Georgia and Argentina, although the Rugby Football Union were quick to defend the breach of rules as a “genuine error.”
Arrested in New Zealand, October 2011
Manu Tuilagi is met by journalists as he arrives in Auckland during England’s Rugby World Cup 2011 campaign. MICHAEL BRADLEY/AFP/Getty Images)
With Tuilagi’s mouthguard incident compounded by negative off-field press, Martin Johnson’s England side fared little better on the pitch as they were dumped out in the quarterfinals by France.
Further embarrassment was to come in the wake of defeat, when Tuilagi was arrested and fined £3,000 for jumping from a moving ferry and into the harbour water in Auckland. He said: “I’m really sorry. It was a silly thing to do and I apologise to everybody for any inconvenience caused.”
Caught behind Cameron on camera, September 2013
Manu Tuilagi was forced to apologise to David Cameron for making ‘bunny ears’ behind the Prime Minister. CHRIS HARRIS/AFP/Getty Images
After the British & Irish Lions returning from Australia with a first Test series win in 16 years, the victorious squad was invited to visit then-Prime Minister David Cameron at Downing Street.
If the visit of Michael Vaughan’s history-making 2005 Ashes squad — in particular a well-lubricated Andrew Flintoff — to No. 10 had been met with knowing smirks, Tuilagi’s decision to make ‘bunny ears’ signs behind Cameron during the photo call was less well received. Again, Tuilagi apologised.
Convicted of assault, May 2015
Tuilagi pleaded guilty to charges of assault and was banned from England selection as a result. David Rogers/Getty Images
In addition to the serious groin and knee injuries that have plagued his recent career, Tuilagi was made unavailable for international selection between May 2015 and January 2016 after being convicted of assault.
Tuilagi pleaded guilty to one count of assault by beating, one count of criminal damage and two counts of assaulting a police officer and was fined £5,500 and ordered to pay £705 in costs.
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