Overseas policy “the right one”

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Published: Wednesday 10th June 2015 by The News Editor

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England bosses are “all in agreement” on refusing to select overseas-based stars despite Toulouse trying to prise Manu Tuilagi away from Leicester, according to RFU chief executive Ian Ritchie.

Top 14 giants Toulouse are attempting to offer Tuilagi a fresh start in France, after the 23-year-old was dropped by England following his conviction for assaulting police officers.

England will head into the World Cup without Toulon’s standout back-rower Steffon Armitage owing to their staunch policy of overlooking foreign-based stars, save for the “exceptional circumstances” clause that has never been invoked.

Toulouse are keen to capitalise on England banning Tuilagi until January following his assault conviction, and the Leicester star’s ongoing groin injury problems.

“I think the policy is the right one, we’re all in agreement that it’s the right one,” Ritchie told Press Association Sport.

“It’s been applied in the right way and now we’ve got to focus on who we’ve got, we’ve got a great squad and the next three months are crucial in the preparation.”

Toulouse are understood to be prepared to buy Tuilagi out of the remainder of his Leicester contract, that runs until summer 2016.

Leicester are determined to retain one of their star assets, with rugby director Richard Cockerill vowing to tie down the Samoa-born centre to a new Welford Road deal.

Any move to France would clearly curtail Tuilagi’s England chances for the duration of a stay across The Channel, but the RFU and Stuart Lancaster are fully intent on standing firm on their already-established selection principles.

World Cup-winner Jonny Wilkinson urged Tuilagi not to make any quick-fire decisions based purely in reaction to a testing few months.

Wilkinson swapped Newcastle Falcons for Toulon in 2009 after 12 years on Tyneside, wholly vindicating that move by leading the Cote d’Azur club to two consecutive Heineken Cup triumphs.

Speaking at Twickenham to mark 100 days until the start of the Rugby World Cup, the 36-year-old said Tuilagi should chase “a life he enjoys” whether that means staying at Leicester or moving to France.

“I know the Tuilagi family all rally round each other and will be there to help him make the best decision, and good for them,” Wilkinson told Press Association Sport.

“What he can provide on a rugby field, his power and game-breaking talents, that’s why Toulouse are lining up to have a look at him.

“Rugby careers generally tend to work out pretty much alright if every decision is about getting better and being a better rugby player.

“Whatever he does, if it’s to go and compete in France and show what he’s got, then he’ll still have options later in his career to reflect and say ‘what do I want to do’.

“He deserves that chance to say ‘this is what I want from my life, and this is how I need to live it’.

“Time will be important, he needs to take what he has on that front.

“When you’re injured though you hate missing playing rugby, mentally you can suffer.

“You’ve got to give people the freedom to make decisions on what they want and where they want to be, but it’s not simple.

“It’s easy to say ‘well if that was me I would this’, that doesn’t matter, because he’s going through it himself, and he needs to make sure he lives a life he enjoys.”

Published: Wednesday 10th June 2015 by The News Editor

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