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Davies targeted as Manu replacement

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Regional row could see Davies lined up to replace Tuilagi at Leicester - reports

Jonathan Davies is reportedly being targeted by Leicester as Manu Tuilagi’s replacement should the England international to take up a life-changing offer at Racing 92.

The future of Welsh regional rugby has been plunged into turmoil this past week amid the on-off row over a potential Scarlets-Ospreys merger, and Davies could be the first big name casualty as he has been sounded out about his availability for a switch to the Premiership away from Parc Y Scarlets. 

Tuilagi, who starred in England’s Six Nations dismissal of Italy on Saturday, is mulling over a money spinning contract in Paris following a visit last month to Racing.

It’s expected he will announce his decision following the end of the championship and if he does decide to head across the channel, Geordan Murphy will try to tempt Davies across the Severn Bridge. 

According to a report in Sunday’s The Rugby Paper, Davies has already been “sounded out by Leicester about his future plans”. 

(Continue reading below…)

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The 30-year-old Wales centre was born in Solihull not far from Leicester and he is already used to playing his rugby outside Wales having had a stint at Clermont before hooking up with the under threat Scarlets in 2015. 

Wales players in recent years have bene hesitate to leave the local regional set-up as they needed to have 60 Test caps in order to continue to be selected for the national side if based outside the country.

That rule wouldn’t hinder Davies’ international ambitions as his appearance at Murrayfield at Saturday as Wales took another step towards a 2019 Grand Slam was his 72nd cap.

Meanwhile, Joe Marler believes Tuilagi’s possible move to France won’t end his England career. The RFU have an “exceptional circumstances” clause whereby an overseas based player can still be picked for the national team.

This was the regulation they used to get Jonny Wilkinson back into the fold when he club career reignited at Toulon and Joe Marler, who quit the Test scene, believes Tuilagi is too good a player not to be picked by England. 

“I would be surprise if Manu wasn’t one of those players they [the RFU] would consider using that particular clause for,” said Marler, also in the weekend edition of The Rugby Paper.  

Manu Tuilagi escapes the challenge of Italy’s Tommaso Allan during this weekend’s Guinness Six Nations match in London (Photo by Mike Hewitt/Getty Images)

“They tried it doing it with Jonny Wilkinson a few years ago when he was in the form of his life at Toulon. It didn’t quite happen, but Manu is such a big player for the team it would make sense.”  

Marler added it is his expectation that Tuilagi will decide to go to France rather than remain at Leicester as the three-year, £2.6million offer is too lucrative to turn down.

“You can’t afford to turn down £2.6m. You can’t ignore that kind of money in this game. Footballers deal with lumps of money like that a lot more than we do in rugby. It’s life-changing. 

“If will be interesting to see if he does go considering he has had a bad run of injuries and Leicester have stuck by him thick and thin. But it is a short career and you have to make the most of it.”

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Regional row could see Davies lined up to replace Tuilagi at Leicester - reports