Tuilagi faces disciplinary hearing over 'marginal' clash with Cloete
Manu Tuilagi's citing for a dangerous tackle on Champions Cup duty has compelled former Ireland captain Brian O'Driscoll to complain that the "game has gone soft".
The 26-year-old former Lion faces the prospect of being banned for a minimum of two weeks immediately after making his comeback from the latest injury problem to have blighted his career.
Tuilagi has been cited for an alleged dangerous tackle on Chris Cloete in Leicester's 25-16 defeat by Munster at Welford Road on Sunday and must appear before an independent disciplinary hearing today. "I think the game has gone soft if we're picking up on marginal collisions like the Manu Tuilagi tackle he's been cited for," former Ireland captain O'Driscoll said on Twitter.
Tuilagi appeared to make a high challenge on Cloete in the 49th-minute incident after the Munster openside had dropped to the floor to grab Jonny May's kick and risen to his feet.
The entry-point sanction for a dangerous tackle is two weeks, the mid-range six weeks and the top end 10 weeks to a year. The England centre was making his first appearance since undergoing knee surgery three months ago and played a full 80 minutes.
Serious chest, groin, knee and hamstring injuries have plagued his career for the past four years and his most recent international appearance was against Wales in March 2016.
Tuilagi's career has been chequered by repeated by off-field disciplinary issues, including a conviction for assaulting two female police officers in 2015 that resulted in his exclusion from England's World Cup squad that year.
The 26-year-old's most recent transgression saw him being sent home from England's August training camp in disgrace after undertaking a late-night drinking session with Denny Solomona.
However, his solitary suspension was the five weeks received for punching Chris Ashton in 2011. Any ban issued by the three-strong panel in London today would be a frustrating blow to a player who is in need of game-time after long spells in the treatment rooms with doubts raised over his future.
Meanwhile, Elliot Daly and Nathan Hughes are serious doubts for the start of England's Six Nations campaign.
Daly and Hughes are due to discover today whether they will play any part in any of the five championship games during March and Feburary as they both see specialists after suffering ankle and knee injuries respectively in the win over La Rochelle. Worcester centre Ben Te'o is also expected to miss the start of the Six Nations because of the ankle problem that has sidelined him since October.
Dai Young, the Wasps director of rugby, expects his players to be out for a minimum of four weeks but fears it could be as long as 12, which would effectively end their hopes of playing in the championship. England open their campaign against Italy on February 4.
Wasps fly-half Jimmy Gopperth has also sustained a knee injury similar to Hughes and must also see a specialist today. "The MRI scans have come back and it does not look particularly good news," said Young.
The loss of Hughes for the start of the Six Nations would be a major blow to England, given that Billy Vunipola has been out for four months with a knee injury.
Mark McCall, the Saracens director of rugby, indicated yesterday that he expected to have Vunipola and Maro Itoje fit again by the time of their next Champions Cup assignment against the Ospreys on the weekend of January 12-14.
Itoje said he hoped to be back within a couple of weeks from the double fracture to his jaw that he sustained against Harlequins.
"It was probably my most painful injury so far," Itoje said. "My jaw ballooned, and I turned into a black Buzz Lightyear!"
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