10:41pm Tuesday 29th May 2012
© Press Association 2014
Manu Tuilagi has escaped punishment after being cited for an alleged tip-tackle in last weekend's Aviva Premiership final, and will jet out with the rest of the England squad to South Africa on Wednesday.
There had been fears that the impressive Tuilagi would miss Stuart Lancaster's first tour as England coach after he was cited for an alleged tip-tackle on Danny Care during the match between Leicester and Harlequins.
But after a two-hour meeting at a hotel in Bristol, the charge against Tuilagi was dropped after a three-man Rugby Football Union disciplinary committee ruled they were "not satisfied" that Tuilagi should be penalised. An RFU statement said: "A citing charge brought against Manusamoa Tuilagi of Leicester Tigers was tonight dismissed."
It continued: "An RFU disciplinary panel of Christopher Quinlan QC (chair), Dan White and Nick Dark was not satisfied on the balance of probabilities that the referee was wrong in not sending the player off for a tackle on Harlequins' Danny Care during the Aviva Premiership final between the teams on May 26.
"Tuilagi is therefore free to continue playing and will fly out to South Africa with the England squad tomorrow evening."
Lancaster said after Sunday's comfortable Twickenham victory that he was confident Tuilagi would not face a major problem and has been proved correct.
The decision means the powerful 21-year-old will be available for games against the Springboks in Durban, Johannesburg and Port Elizabeth next month, plus two midweek tour matches.
Tuilagi had been reported by citing officer John Byett, and would have faced a minimum three-week suspension if he had been found guilty - enough to rule him out of the tour, for which he was due to be assigned a key role.
Tuilagi, one of England's outstanding performers during the RBS 6 Nations campaign this season, is no stranger to controversy. He was banned for 10 weeks after punching Northampton and England wing Chris Ashton during a Premiership semi-final at Welford Road last season, although that suspension was reduced to five weeks on appeal.
And during England's ill-fated World Cup campaign in New Zealand last autumn, Tuilagi received a £3,000 fine for jumping from a ferry into Auckland Harbour and a £4,800 punishment from the International Rugby Board for wearing a sponsored mouthguard during the tournament.
© Copyright 2001-2015 Newsquest Media Group