Monday 17 December 2018

Tuilagi escapes sanction for Cloete hit

Tuilagi: Cleared. Photo: Reuters
Tuilagi: Cleared. Photo: Reuters

Jack de Menezes

Manu Tuilagi will not face any action for his tackle on Munster flanker Chris Cloete after his citing case was thrown out yesterday, leaving him clear to continue his latest comeback from injury.

The 26-year-old England centre was cited following his first match back from a three-month injury absence after his tackle on Cloete was judged by the match citing commissioner, Jeff Mark, to be worthy of a red card.

But a disciplinary hearing in London decided that the tackle, which saw Tuilagi's shoulder make contact with Cloete's head as he ducked, decided that the incident did not meet the requirements of a sending-off offence, meaning that Tuilagi is clear to play for Leicester against Saracens on Christmas Eve - though he was given a warning by the commission.

A statement issued by European Professional Club Rugby read: "The committee found that Tuilagi had committed a reckless act of foul play in that his shoulder had made contact with Cloete's head; however, the committee was not satisfied that the offence had warranted a red card.

"The citing complaint was therefore dismissed and Tuilagi is free to play."

The news is a huge boost for Leicester, who welcomed Tuilagi back for only his third appearance of the year last weekend alongside Australia centre Matt Toomua, and coach Matt O'Connor will be able to call on the 26-cap England international for Sunday's visit of Saracens.

Had Tuilagi been found guilty of the charge, he faced a ban of at least two weeks, which would have ruled him out of the rest of the calendar year, and any longer suspension would have significantly impacted his hopes of earning an international recall from Eddie Jones for the Six Nations opener against Italy on February 4.

The citing drew criticism from former Ireland captain Brian O'Driscoll, who claimed that the charge was not justified and threw the state of rugby union into jeopardy if he received a ban.

He wrote on Twitter: "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."

Tuilagi will hope to force his way into Jones's Six Nations plans, with the head coach set to name his squad at the end of the month for a training camp in Brighton on January 2.

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