Manu Tuilagi’s citing for a dangerous tackle on Champions Cup duty has compelled his British and Irish Lions team-mate Brian O’Driscoll to complain that the “game has gone soft”.
Tuilagi 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 on Wednesday.
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.
But has received support from O'Driscoll, who tweeted: "I think the game has gone soft if we’re picking up on marginal collisions like the Manu Tuilagi tackle he’s been sited for."
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 later 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 on Wednesday would be a frustrating blow to a player who is in desperate need of game time after spending long spells in the treatment rooms with doubts raised over his future.
Leinster’s 22-17 victory over Exeter at the Aviva Stadium on Sunday has produced two citings.
Cian Healy, the Ireland prop, was shown a yellow card for charging into the ruck and striking the head of Luke Cowan-Dickie with his forearm in the 17th minute and must appear before a hearing.
Exeter lock Mitch Lees has been cited for a similar challenge using his head rather than forearm.