Rugby Union

Leicester face fight to keep Manu Tuilagi as Worcester and Wasps join suitors

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Manu Tuilagi could become the Aviva Premiership's highest-paid player of all time after Worcester and Wasps joined the fight to prise the England centre away from Leicester.

Leicester's Premiership rivals Worcester and Wasps have both launched bids to sign Tuilagi for next season, Press Association Sport understands.

Rugby director Richard Cockerill has already claimed Tuilagi would become one of the world's top earners if he signs the new deal on the table at Leicester.

But the 24-year-old Samoa-born centre is now the subject of a bidding war, with Worcester and Wasps ready to complete deals worth in excess of ?500,000 a year.

Saracens and French giants Toulouse have previously pushed to lure Tuilagi away from Leicester, his sole top-flight club, but now the group of serious suitors has swelled again.

The expansion of the Premiership salary cap by ?1million allows top clubs to bolster their squads for next term.

The addition of a second marquee player - whose salary is exempt from the cap - also boosts the English clubs' spending power.

Tuilagi has not played in more than a year due to serious groin trouble, and was removed from England's World Cup plans after being convicted of assaulting police officers in May.

Leicester boss Cockerill has remained bullish about the chances of securing Tuilagi on a new long-term contract, despite the outside interest.

Cockerill told BBC Radio Leicester earlier this month: "We have put our best foot forward, contractually.

"There are probably 10 years left in him and we would like him to be here for the next 10 years.

"We have made that known to him.

"He wants to stay here and we have made an offer that would make him up there with the highest-paid players in the world.

"We are just waiting for that answer. We would like to think that it will get done sooner rather than later."

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