Freddie Tuilagi has just gone and given every critic of England’s United Nations RWC11 squad some easy copy.
“I know Alesana and Manu would be very interested to experience Super 15 rugby,” Freddie told Sunday News. “We’re already talking to a few people. For Alesana, he’s settled in Leicester and has a young family there. He’s happy where he is at the moment but, if the opportunity arises in the next 12 months, things change.”
“In Manu’s situation, he’s more likely to come over [to New Zealand]. In the future he wants to explore different options and experience Super 15. Those options are there.”
With Kiwi Thomas “I’ve Got An English Granny” Waldrom having been officially called up to the squad as a replacement for injured loosehead Big Ted Sheridan, and the furore over Lord Tins-upon-Turnpike’s extra-curricular activities [as innocent as the Mole believes they were] still hanging over the squad like a bad small, Freddie Tuilagi – acting in an official capacity as an agent for both his brothers – has inserted his foot in his mouth at precisely the wrong time.
Few people have forgotten that just as soon as Rickie Flutey had qualified through residency for England, he had f*cked off to Brive for a bigger paycheck. The Mole has gone on the record before that he has no problem with the residency qualification – it’s what the IRB has decided as an appropriate verdict, and as long as everybody complies with it, there’s a level playing field.
Still, Flutey’s actions seemed to take the p*ss and were taken badly by many English rugby fans, who saw his behaviour as opportunist in the extreme. Like it or not, international [the clue’s in the title] sport is about nations competing against one another, and thus nationalism is a big part of it. Beyond that, Flutey’s case provided ample ammunition to those people who believe that the residency regulations are open to abuse.
Tuilagi Jnr hasn’t actually done anything yet, but there’s little doubt that this will stir up a wasps’ nest of controversy that beetle-browed beadle Johno could well do without. Without getting xenophobic about it, there has already beet a bit of yap in reputable publications about the fact that he was more-or-less an illegal immigrant, and going from the position of England’s ‘bright new hope for the future’ to ‘want-away striker’ within the space of a couple of months will doubtless upset the Barbour Brigade and the fifty-seven old farts.
It’s not really that serious an issue from the Mole’s point of view: he’s only a nipper, he’s said nothing about it himself and it’s most likely his agent just trying to get his name in the headlines and guarantee a nice big chunk of money from his fast-rising status.
Still, I’d imagine that it’s the last thing Johno wanted to hear … especially as it comes from within the Leicester camp [Johnson himself, scrum coach Graham Rowntree, forwards coach John Wells, players Dan Cole, Louis Deacon, Tom Croft, Tom Waldrom, Ben Youngs, Tobey ‘Tobes’ Flood, young Tuilagi … and up until quite recently, captain Lewis Moody] who are the team-within-a-team of Johnson’s English set-up.
Then you’ve got to deal with Freddie’s kicker: “If he wanted to test himself against some of the best players in the world, Super 15 is up there.” Because northern hemisphere rugby is second-rate, obviously.
I think it’s safe to say that young Manu is in for the hair-dryer treatment. For more information, click the link and transport yourself magically to ESPN scrum.com