Manu Tuilagi: Bad boy of rubgy
Why couldn’t Kevin Pietersen have taken a leaf out of Manu Tuilagi’s book? England rugby fans are facing the prospect of a World Cup on home soil without their battering ram of a centre after he pleaded guilty to two counts of assaulting a police officer, assault by beating and causing criminal damage. He started on a taxi driver, then smashed his car up before assaulting two female police officers and was fined £6,205 by the magistrates court today.
But it is not the fighting or the fine that will have hurt him, but the response of Stuart Lancaster, England’s head coach, who announced that, as a direct result of the incident on April 26th, Tuilagi will be banned from playing for England until 2016. He will miss the World Cup and, while he may not have started many games with Luther Burrell and Jonathan Joseph having created such a good understanding, he would have been one hell of a player to bring on with twenty minutes to go. He will be missed by England, of that there is no doubt, and it is not the first time he has transgressed after he was warned by police and fined £3,000 by England after jumping from a ferry into Auckland harbour on Sunday.
Credit to Stuart Lancaster for setting the expectations of his squad and sticking to them, even when a player of such significance crosses the line. “As role models and ambassadors for the game,” said Lancaster following the verdict “the highest standards of behaviour are expected from every England player both on and off the field.” I don’t imagine that there will be many who disagree with his decision.
How simply England’s rugby team have dealt with this problem compared to the soap-opera that plays out daily with our cricket team. There are obvious differences, Kevin Pietersen, it appears, has been much more subtle in his misdemeanours, nothing as blatant as punching a female police officer. But the leadership differences are striking and Stuart Lancaster and the RFU should be praised for putting the integrity of the game before personal and team agendas.