Leicester centre Manu Tuilagi could miss England’s tour of South Africa after being cited following an incident during Saturday’s Aviva Premiership final.
Tuilagi will face a Rugby Football Union disciplinary hearing in Bristol tonight. He has been reported by citing officer John Byett for a “tip tackle” on Harlequins scrum-half Danny Care during the showpiece final at Twickenham, which Quins won 30-23.
The England squad leave for South Africa tomorrow, playing Tests against the Springboks in Durban, Johannesburg and Port Elizabeth, plus two midweek fixtures. The powerful Tuilagi, 21, is a key part of England head coach Stuart Lancaster’s plans, but he could land a minimum three-week suspension.
Tuilagi, one of England’s outstanding performers during the RBS Six Nations campaign, is no stranger to controversy. He was banned for ten weeks after punching Northampton and England wing Chris Ashton during a Premiership semi-final at Welford Road last season, although that suspension was reduced to five weeks on appeal. And during England’s ill-fated World Cup campaign in New Zealand last autumn, Tuilagi received a £3,000 fine for jumping from a ferry into Auckland Harbour and a £4,800 punishment from the International Rugby Board for wearing a sponsored mouthguard during the tournament.
“Tip tackles” are frowned upon by rugby disciplinarians, and if the case is proved against Tuilagi, who tackled Care in the first minute, then he can expect an enforced absence from the game. Lancaster said after Sunday’s comfortable Twickenham victory over the Barbarians, in which Tuilagi did not play, that he was not anticipating a major problem for the player. “Looking at the incident I am pretty confident he will be fine, but we will wait and see,” Lancaster said. Tuilagi was penalised by referee Wayne Barnes for the offence, but he did not receive a yellow or red card.