Manu Tuilagi could be forgoing a six-figure testimonial year if he carries through with his dramatic exit from Leicester Tigers. Tuilagi was one of five high profile players to reject new, cut-price contracts with the Gallagher Premiership side and the club confirmed his departure last night.
The squad were asked to accept reduced wages by way of new deals, albeit with an inbuilt ‘mechanism through which a proportion of forgone earnings could be reclaimed when the club returns to profitability.’
Should the 29-year-old stay, he faces a drastic salary reduction.
RugbyPass has learned that all Leicester Tigers’ salaries were capped at £250,000 a player with the exception of George Ford, who is understood to be on circa £320,000. England prop Ellis Genge, who agreed to a new contract, undertook the biggest cut of any player to sign a new contract at the club.
Tuilagi, if he stays, he would face an even bigger salary cut again, and would likely to be paid a figure in the region of 75 per cent (£360,000) of his reported £480,000 a year, pre-lockdown salary, with the possibility of getting roughly £60,000 back through the club’s pay back mechanism.
But against this Tuilagi, were he to finish his career with Tigers, could be set to make north of £400,000 by way of a testimonial year at the club. Testimonial years are a long-held tradition at the club, with the likes of Marcos Ayerza, Tom Croft and (in this season), Tom and Ben Youngs benefitting.
Proceeds from testimonial years, generated via fund-raising events, are split between pre-appointed charities of the player’s choice and the players themselves.
According to the terms of his current contract, Tigers’ technically have the right to match any offer made to Tuilagi by another club. Whether they choose to, is another matter entirely.
One source who spoke to RugbyPass said: “It would have to be a ridiculous offer for Manu to entertain it.”
As it stands, the Rugby Football Union (RFU) will not allow Tuilagi to play for England should the centre move abroad, suggesting he may opt for an English club. “The current rules and regulations apply and there are no plans to change them,” an RFU source told the BBC.
There is currently an ‘exceptional circumstances’ clause, but it only comes into effect in the event of a major injury crisis. The overseas-based player rule has been in place since after the 2011 Rugby World Cup.
Sale Sharks are favourites among the Premiership side courting the centre, although DoR Steve Diamond has told RugbyPass that they have not had any talks with the player. “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.”
EXCLUSIVE: Diamond denies an approach to bring Tuilagi to Sale but has the financial power to make it happen
— RugbyPass (@RugbyPass) July 5, 2020
Bristol Bears also deny they’re interested in the centre, while RugbyPass understands Toulouse are leading the French Top 14 teams’ pursuit of the Fogapoa born star. There is also a lucrative offer on the table from a Japanese Top League team.
According to reports in The Telegraph, work is underway behind the scenes this weekend between the club and Tuilagi that may yet see the England star stay.
After a breakthrough season in 2010/11 when he was named Young Player of the Year by Tigers supporters, club colleagues and the RPA, Tuilagi won a first Premiership title in 2012/13, scoring a try in the Final win against Northampton Saints.
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