Manu Tuilagi may be on the verge of an abrupt departure from Leicester as it understood that the England centre has not signed a new contract with the Tigers.
While fellow Red Rose stars George Ford and Ellis Genge have agreed last-minute deals to stay with the East Midlands club, on reduced salaries, sources have indicated to Sportsmail that Tuilagi has not accepted revised terms by the deadline of 5pm on Tuesday which was set down by Leicester.
In theory, it means that the 29-year-old and a number of others who have not accepted contracts will be ‘stood down’ and released, unless the Tigers hierarchy have a change of heart.
Tuilagi is thought to earn around £500,000 per year as one of the leading Test players at Welford Road. The Anglo-Samoan midfield wrecking ball was the subject of a lucrative offer from Racing 92 before deciding to stay at the club he has represented for the best part of a decade.
If he does have to move on, he may struggle to relocate within the Premiership, as clubs are slashing budgets and preparing for a substantial reduction in the salary cap ahead of the 2021-22 season. There may be opportunities abroad, in France or Japan, but that would mean he becomes unavailable for national service, due to the RFU’s policy against picking players based overseas.
However, while Tuilagi’s position appears to be in the balance, Ford and Genge are staying. The England duo were two of around a dozen Tigers rebelling against taking enforced pay-cuts, but Sportsmail has been informed that both fly-half Ford, 27, and prop Genge, 25, have relented and accepted the reduced terms.
Genge is now set to stay at Leicester until 2023, adding an extra year from his previous deal, but has taken a 25 per cent drop in wages from the £400,000-a-year deal he signed at the turn of the year. Ford’s pay-packet – thought to be more than £650,000-a-season – will also drop by a quarter.
Players across the league were ordered to sign fresh contracts by June 18, so clubs could take advantage of a salary cap loophole that allows ‘existing’ deals to count to 75 per cent of their value in 2021.
But Leicester were unable to tie down every member of their squad – with many unhappy with their offers. It now appears as if several players could be released immediately.