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Manu Tuilagi signs new Leicester Tigers contract to reject £2.5m Racing offer and keep England career alive

The Independent logo The Independent 13/03/2019 Jack de Menezes
Manu Tuilagi sitting at a table © Provided by Independent Digital News & Media Limited

Manu Tuilagi has rejected a lucrative £2.5m contract offer from Racing 92 to sign a new two-year extension with Leicester Tigers, committing himself to the Premiership club until June 2021.

The 27-year-old England international had been offered an eye-watering deal to move to the Top 14 side, understood to be worth around £830,000-a-year, that would have resulted in the end of his England career due to the RFU’s policy of not selecting players based abroad.

But reports that Tuilagi has agreed to join Racing from next year proved false as the 31-cap centre has signed a contract extension, believed to be around a 25 per cent increase on his previous £450,000-a-year deal that will net him more than £1m over the next two seasons, to see him stay at Welford Road until the 2021 British and Irish Lions tour of South Africa.

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“This is a massive club and it means a lot to me and my family,” Tuilagi said as Leicester announced the contract renewal.

“I love the club and I want to repay the loyalty they have shown me in my time here. We are all behind (head coach) Geordan Murphy and his ambitions for the team, and I’m very passionate about playing my part in bringing back the success we all expect at such a massive club.

“This was a big decision for me to make but I am very happy to be able to stay here, I have a lot of friends here, my family is happy here and the club means a lot to me.”

Leicester’s chief executive Simon Cohen was seen meeting with Tuilagi at England’s Pennyhill Park training base in Bagshot on Wednesday, where Tuilagi signed his new deal at around 11am, amd a picture of the two was shared on Twitter by the England star’s brother Fereti.

Tuilagi joined the Leicester Tigers academy in 2007 and made his professional debut in the 2010/11 campaign in what transpired to be a breakthrough season, culminating in the Samoan-born back making England’s Rugby World Cup squad.

While that tournament did not go as had hoped – culminating in Tuilagi being arrested for jumping off a ferry and into Auckland harbour – he went on to become one of the leading players in international rugby, playing a pivotal role in England’s 2012 victory over New Zealand and making the squad that won the 2013 British and Irish Lions series against Australia, playing in the decisive third and final test.

Gallery: England player ratings v Italy (Read Sport)

However, it proved to be the start of his chronic injury problems that plagued him from 2014 until this season, limiting him to just one England appearance four-and-a-half years until he ended his international absence last autumn.

Yet he has featured throughout Leicester’s 2018/19 campaign and has forced his way back into the staring XV of Eddie Jones’ side, starting all four of their Six Nations matches so far this year and likely to feature again for this Saturday’s finale against Scotland.

“(I’m the fittest I’ve been) for a long time,” Tuilagi said after last weekend’s landslide victory over Italy that saw him take his international try tally to 13 as he scored twice. “I’m feeling good – touch wood – and just enjoying it really, enjoying a good winning performance.”

a man holding a football ball: Tuilagi will remain eligible for England next season after signing a new deal with Leicester (Getty) © Provided by Independent Digital News & Media Limited Tuilagi will remain eligible for England next season after signing a new deal with Leicester (Getty)

His decision to stay with Leicester also rewards the club for their commitment in standing by Tuilagi during his nightmare run of injuries, and head coach Geordan Murphy believes that the new deal will be the catalyst for Tuilagi’s best performances that lie ahead of him.

“Manu is a world-class player with a real X-factor about his game and anyone would want him in their team,” Murphy said. “He’s been here a long time, his heart is here and we’re all delighted that he wants to stay with the club.

“He is at his physical peak as a player at 27, he is a leader within the squad and we look forward to seeing many more big performances from him in a Tigers shirt.”

Gallery: Predicted England World Cup squad (Read Sport)

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