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Cockerill will wait over Tuilagi

Published 16/05/2015

Leicester rugby director Richard Cockerill, pictured, will not make any rash decisions about Manu Tuilagi
Leicester rugby director Richard Cockerill, pictured, will not make any rash decisions about Manu Tuilagi

Leicester look set to put an emphasis on rehabilitation - rather than any severe punishment - for their disgraced England centre Manu Tuilagi.

Tigers star Tuilagi pleaded guilty to assaulting two female police officers when he appeared before magistrates in Leicester on Thursday following an incident last month.

He pleaded guilty to one count of assault by beating, one count of criminal damage and two counts of assaulting a police officer. He was fined £5,500 and ordered to pay £705 in costs.

England head coach Stuart Lancaster responded by announcing that Tuilagi will not be considered for selection for the national elite playing squads until January 2016, meaning he will miss the World Cup on home soil later this year.

And after Leicester booked their place in this season's Aviva Premiership play-offs by beating Northampton 22-14 at Welford Road, Tigers rugby director Richard Cockerill addressed the Tuilagi situation.

"When I spoke to Manu about this, the first thing he said was 'I was wrong, I will take the punishment'. He has never tried to get away from his responsibility or make excuses for himself," Cockerill said.

"He can't behave like that, we know that. He has been punished by the courts, he has been punished by England.

"I want to find out exactly the findings of the court and what he actually did and what he was convicted of, and then I will decide what I do with him.

"I will speak to the (Leicester) chairman and the chief executive, and we will have that discussion. There is a lot of hysteria around it, rightly so in some ways, and he knows you can't behave like that.

"He is a young man growing up in the public eye. Young people do stupid things, and he has done a very stupid thing. We all grow up and you make mistakes, young and old.

"I am not going to excuse him for how he has behaved. I can empathise, but I am not going to make light of it. Stuart has made his decision, and I support that."

Tuilagi is currently battling to regain full fitness after suffering a groin injury that has sidelined him since last October, and Cockerill confirmed that he will definitely play for Leicester again.

"Manu does a lot of things for the community and for charity, and if there are 400 kids out there he will stay for two hours and sign autographs. He is a high-profile player, but a very ordinary person," Cockerill added.

"We are all very holier than though when it is not us. We need a bit of understanding of a young professional in the public eye.

"I am not excusing his behaviour, but we all know Manu is a better bloke than that and I don't want him to be portrayed as this certain individual, because I don't think that is completely fair on him.

"He needs to put that right, but I think we need to support him as well. He will get fit and he will play for the club again.

"We need to help him, not just cut him adrift and let him read all the press and the whole thing is sat on top of him. We need to help him, and so do England, to make sure he comes through this and is a better person for the experience."

On the field, tries by number eight Jordan Crane and full-back Niall Morris, plus three Freddie Burns penalties and a late Tommy Bell penalty saw the Tigers secure victory and an away play-off against Bath next Saturday, while Northampton will host Saracens in the other semi-final.

Leicester lost 45-0 at Bath last September, and Cockerill said: "As long as we beat the 45-0 deficit, we are improving aren't we?

"Look, it is a one-off game next week, and we are a different side to when we played them down there.

"We have got guys in our side that can win big games. We saw that last week against Wasps, and the pressure is probably not on us. I think we can go there and throw everything at them.

"The crux of it is you have to win next week. We have to win, they have to win, so different pressures come on and people react in different ways.

"We will go there, we will work hard and we will take 6-3 if it comes to it."

And looking ahead to hosting Saracens, Northampton rugby director Jim Mallinder said: "We have had some cracking matches against them.

"The (Premiership) final was an epic last year, and we have had some good games this season. We know each other quite well, and I think it is going to be a great game."

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