Manu Tuilagi to miss Rugby World Cup

Manu Tuilagi will miss this year’s Rugby World Cup after pleading guilty to assaulting a police officer.

Tuilagi, who turns 26 on Monday, last played for England in their 2014 summer tour of New Zealand, but was still expected to earn a call-up to Stuart Lancaster’s squad for September’s championship. The incident, which involved a taxi driver and a police officer, took place several weeks ago and yesterday Tuilagi pleaded guilty to three charges of assault and one of criminal damage. Stuart Lancaster had privately informed the Leicester man that if he were to be found guilty then he would be excluded from the World Cup squad.

In a statement, the England Head Coach Stuart Lancaster said: “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”.

The Leicester midfielder had been side-lined for most of the 2014/15 campaign following a groin injury he picked last October, which also ruled him out of England’s Autumn and Six Nations campaigns.

His absence is likely to be a significant blow to Lancaster and England’s hopes of winning the World Cup for the second time with Tuilagi widely regarded as one of the most destructive players in world rugby. To many of the opposing nations, his power, pace and scoring potency offered England an altogether different threat.

One of the more intriguing selection battles in England’s World Cup team was set to be at outside centre between Tuilagi and Six Nations top scorer Jonathan Joseph, but with Tuilagi now officially out of contention, Joseph is most certainly favourite to line up against Fiji on 18 September.

Tuilagi has commented on the incident: “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”.

Following this weekend’s final round of Premiership games, England Head Coach Stuart Lancaster will announce his 45-man World Cup training squad on Wednesday.