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Lancaster ditches shamed Tuilagi

Published 15/05/2015

England centre Manu Tuilagi has been fined for assaulting a police officer and criminal damage.
England centre Manu Tuilagi has been fined for assaulting a police officer and criminal damage.

England will go into a World Cup campaign on home soil without star centre Manu Tuilagi after he pleaded guilty to assaulting two female police officers.

Head coach Stuart Lancaster announced that 23-year-old Tuilagi will not be considered for selection for the national elite playing squads until January 2016, meaning he will miss the home World Cup later this year.

Tuilagi was fined £5,500, and ordered to pay £705 in costs, when he appeared before magistrates in Leicester on Thursday. The incident took place on April 26.

The Leicester player pleaded guilty to one count of assault by beating, one count of criminal damage and two counts of assaulting a police officer.

Tuilagi is understood to have grabbed a taxi driver by the throat and kicked the vehicle's wing mirror before pushing the two female officers in the chest as they attempted to handcuff him.

Tuilagi has not played rugby since October due to a serious groin injury, but if fit, he was set to be a major part of Lancaster's plans for the World Cup, which is being hosted in England and starts at Twickenham on September 18.

He has won 25 caps and played Test rugby for the British and Irish Lions, establishing himself among world rugby's most destructive midfield runners.

Lancaster, though, has taken swift and decisive action, while Tuilagi apologised "unreservedly" to "all those involved in the incident, Leicester Tigers and England".

Lancaster said on Friday: "As role models and ambassadors for the game, the highest standards of behaviour are expected from every England player both on and off the field.

"Having spoken to Manu, he understands and accepts both the seriousness of the offences to which he has pleaded guilty and the consequences of his behaviour to his club, country and the game as a whole.

"England will continue to liaise with Leicester Tigers and have every confidence that the club will continue to support Manu in the right way."

Tuilagi added: "I take full responsibility for my actions and unreservedly apologise to all those involved in the incident, Leicester Tigers and England.

"It is something I deeply regret, and I totally accept the sentence given by the court.

"The club and Stuart have been very supportive, and I understand their sanctions, too.

"I know as an England player the need to conduct myself as a good role model for the game.

"I am very disappointed because my actions have let so many people down, and I can only hope for a future chance to prove myself again."

Leicester rugby director Richard Cockerill, meanwhile, confirmed that Tuilagi's club would take internal disciplinary action against him.

"Manu knows and accepts his responsibilities and has received a significant punishment in being excluded from the England squad, and the club will also take internal disciplinary action," Cockerill said.

"While we do not in any way condone his actions in this case, Manu is a young man who has grown up in the public eye and he is a good professional in a top-level environment.

"He always gives his time very generously to supporters, particularly young ones, wherever he goes, and fully understands the role that the fans have played in his career.

"We will continue to work closely with him on his return to full fitness and look forward to his return to the field in due course."

Former England captain Lewis Moody felt England had no other option but to deal out a strong punishment.

Moody told BBC Radio 5 Live: "For one of England's probably best players in the last couple of years to have been missing with injury for so long and to now put himself in a position where he is going to miss the World Cup is disappointing, and it's disappointing for England as well.

"But Stuart has absolutely made the right decision there."

Former England scrum-half Matt Dawson expressed outrage, adding: "I'm disgusted. I'm disappointed. There's no excuse, he deserves everything that he gets.

"I'm devastated for Stuart Lancaster and the rest of the coaching staff. It's a massive loss but England are going to have to suck it up and deal with it."

Tuilagi made his England debut in a World Cup warm-up game against Wales at Twickenham in 2011.

But England endured a miserable World Cup campaign in New Zealand that was blighted by off-field controversy, and Tuilagi was part of that.

In the aftermath of England's quarter-final defeat against France, Tuilagi was detained by New Zealand police and fined £3,000 by England rugby officials for jumping into Auckland harbour from a ferry.

And in September 2013, he issued an apology to Prime Minister David Cameron after he made a "bunny ears" sign behind his back during a photograph taken outside 10 Downing Street when the successful British and Irish Lions squad that toured Australia - Tuilagi played in the third Test - made an official visit.

Lancaster, meanwhile, is likely to select four centres for the World Cup, with Jonathan Joseph, Brad Barritt, Luther Burrell, Billy Twelvetrees and Henry Slade his leading options.

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