Tuilagi gives England boost by ignoring lure of France

England's Manu Tuilagi.
England's Manu Tuilagi.
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Manu Tuilagi has been tipped to revitalise Leicester and England after committing his long-term future to the Tigers.

Wrecking-ball centre Tuilagi has rejected a lucrative move to French club Racing 92 that would have jeopardised his England career after the autumn’s World Cup.

England only select overseas-based players in extreme circumstances and a move to France could have cut short Tuilagi’s Test career.

But now the 27-year-old will be on hand at Welford Road with Leicester and available for England duty beyond Japan 2019, leaving Tigers and Test team-mate Jonny May delighted.

“We’re over the moon, it’s awesome news; it’s come out pretty quickly – he did it this morning and he only told me in the gym today,” said Leicester and England wing May.

“He’s got a big smile on his face and I think he is happy with the decision he has made.

“You can tell it has been playing on his mind a little bit, it probably would have been quite stressful for him, but we’re all happy with the decision he has made.

“It would have been a huge loss for Leicester, but it was important that we supported him either way.

“He’s been a brilliant player for Leicester and England, and he’s earned the opportunity to sign a contract wherever he wants to now. But obviously England fans and Leicester fans will be delighted that he has signed again for Leicester.”

Tuilagi revealed his personal pride at signing on for more with Leicester, where he can now add to the 121 appearances he has racked up since his 2010 debut.

The Samoa-born midfielder came to England on a holiday visa in his early teens to stay with his rugby star brothers and was almost deported in 2010 as a result.

A campaign led to Tuilagi being handed indefinite leave to remain in the UK and since then he has built an impressive career with Leicester, England and the British and Irish Lions.

“This is a massive club and it means a lot to me and my family,” said Tuilagi.

“I love the club and I want to repay the loyalty they have shown me in my time here. This was a big decision for me to make but I am very happy to be able to stay here. I have a lot of friends here, my family is happy here and the club means a lot to me.”

Former Gloucester wing May admitted Leicester retaining the services of a player of Tuilagi’s stature can prove beneficial for both club and country.

“It hasn’t been great at Leicester, but this is brilliant news for the club and I’m sure we will go back and fix things now; this is a bit of news that can hopefully give everyone a lift,” said May. “When things are going well or good things are happening, more people are interested in coming along or staying.”

England’s replacement scrum-half Dan Robson is undergoing medical checks after being ruled out of Saturday’s Six Nations clash with Scotland through illness.

Robson was poised to win his third cap as Ben Youngs’s understudy for the climax to the tournament at Twickenham but will now be replaced on the bench by Saracens’ Ben Spencer.

“Dan is not available and has left camp. He’s got some investigations and consultations going on. We’re trying to investigate exactly what’s wrong,” forwards coach Steve Borthwick said.

Spencer won both of his caps as a replacement on last year’s tour to South Africa and Borthwick views his former Saracens team-mate as a ready-made replacement for Robson.

“I was fortunate enough to play with Ben. He’s a good player. He’s fast, fit and has real good fundamentals of the game. He can pass well and kicks well,” Borthwick added. “He’s had time with us last year and knows our principles of play. He’s played with and against a lot of the players here, so knows them well.”