Ben Youngs says there is no way back for Manu Tuilagi at Leicester – but insists he has not let the club down.
Tuilagi is one of five Tigers to have rejected a 25 per cent pay cut and has been stood down by team bosses.
Rumours over the weekend hinted at a u-turn by the midfield star but they were last night booted into touch by England team mate Youngs.
“I don’t see that happening,” said the 99-times capped scrum-half. “We had a deadline and everyone knew the repercussions if you didn't agree by then.
“Manu wouldn't have made his decision unless he’d really weighed it up. It’s not one he’d make lightly. So to suddenly go full circle a week later – I’d be very, very surprised.”
With Jonny May and Telusa Veainu also departing a club second from bottom in the Premiership, Tigers have a mountain to climb to rediscover past glories.
But Youngs is clear that Tuilagi’s decision to leave the ailing English champions will be in no way held against him by team mates he leaves behind.
“Do I feel let down by Manu? Absolutely not,” said the 30-year old. “Manu has given a huge career to Leicester, his family has given a huge dynasty to Leicester.
“There comes a time in anyone's career where potentially you just need to try and change it up. Manu has been an amazing servant for Leicester along with all his brothers. He's an unbelievable, exceptional talent, a wrecking-ball ball carrier. He's also my mate."
Tuilagi knows that leaving the Premiership would cost him his international jersey and Youngs reckons that policy is still the right one for the England team.
“I think it's important to get the best players playing in England and competing against each other in the Premiership,” he said. “The rule allows that to happen and I think for the moment it works well.
“Every player knows the repercussions and what you leave behind if you decide to go abroad."
Premiership Rugby confirmed last night that six players and four non-playing staff out of 804 had tested positive for Covid-19.
Harlequins, Saracens, Northampton and Worcester (two) each have staff affected who, along with their close contacts, will now isolate.
Manu Vunipola, younger cousin of England duo Billy and Mako, has extended his Saracens contract until 2023. Mako and Maro Itoje are expected to confirm next week that they are also staying.
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