Steve Diamond, the Sale Sharks director of rugby, has denied opening talks with Leicester’s Manu Tuilagi, but revealed the club does have room in their salary cap for the England centre.
Tuilagi is one of five Leicester players who have refused to sign new reduced term contracts with the club including Kyle Eastmond, Greg Bateman, Noel Reid and Telusa Veainu. Tuilagi is attracting interest from France and Japan where his reported £500,000 a year salary is not seen as a problem, however, if takes the overseas option he will be ruled out of selection for England making a switch to a rival Premiership club an attractive option even if he has to take a pay cut. Tuilagi could accept a lower salary with a new Premiership club and try to recoup the difference by taking legal action against his former club.
Sale, who have brought in a number of South African players headed by World Cup winners Faf de Klerk and Lood de Jager to create what they believe is a title winning squad, are second in the Gallagher Premiership behind Exeter Chiefs. Despite their recent recruitment, including Stormers lock Cobus Wiese who is awaiting the chance to pass his English test to gain a visa to play in England, Diamond has confirmed the club could accommodate Tuilagi- if he becomes a target.
Diamond told RugbyPass: “We have had no discussions about Manu Tuilagi. People see what we are doing and our ability get everything sorted unlike other clubs. I think we are being dragged into it and I know Manu’s agent well and I trust him not to have brought us into it and I don’t know if it is the current club throwing it around to try and force the arm of the individual. I am very direct and, generally, I will say if we are or not.
“If players do become available of a high calibre as long as we are not contravening any regulations then we will look at other players. Financially we would be able to do that, however, we are going through a very intense schedule to get these Premiership games played and we are going to be playing Saturday, Wednesday, Sunday by the looks of it three or four times. Nobody knows where we are with the global season and I am just trying to future proof things.”
Leicester are going to hold talks with former Crusaders back row Jordan Taufua who is finishing his quarantine period having travelled back from New Zealand. Geordan Murphy, the Leicester director of rugby, believes Taufua wants to remain at the club while predicting two of the “gang of five” are to sign deals with French clubs.
Leicester expect to lose £5m due to the pandemic lockdown and have made more than 30 staff redundant and Murphy told LTTV: “We stood five players down and asked those guys to stay away from training and give them time to reflect on their actions. Jordan is in a different position and he was in New Zealand and is in quarantine at present. We have communicated with him and he wants to be here and as such we have given him an extra week to have that discussion face to face when he is out of quarantine and work with him. He has indicated that he wants to be here next season and we will give him the due respect of having that conversation face to face.
“Guys have contracts and we don’t want to talk about monetary values of players and we have tried to be as transparent as possible and it’s a difficult one. We have had this publicised dispute with five players and I have been told that two of those guys have already agreed deals in France.”
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