Centre Manu Tuilagi’s international future is shrouded in fresh doubt after he and code-switcher Denny Solomona were sent home from England’s three-day training camp in Teddington.
Governing body the Rugby Football Union have refused to elaborate on the specifics, except to say the duo have been banished over “team culture issues”, although it is thought the matter is alcohol-related.
Samoa-born Leicester back Tuilagi, who has not played for England since March 2016 and has been sidelined since January with a knee injury, is no stranger to controversy.
He was left out of England’s 2015 World Cup squad after being convicted of assaulting two female police officers, while he was slapped with a five-week ban in 2011 for punching Chris Ashton, then of Northampton.
Other off-field indiscretions include jumping off a ferry in Auckland during the 2011 World Cup and giving then Prime Minister David Cameron ‘bunny ears’ during a British and Irish Lions visit to Downing Street two years later.
Despite his rap sheet, England head coach Eddie Jones had appeared willing to bring Tuilagi back into the fold for the autumn internationals against Argentina Australia and Samoa.
“It’s nice to see him back training and back into it. He was a player that demolished New Zealand [in 2012] and we need those kind of players,” said Jones of Tuilagi on Friday. “If he can get himself fit he can definitely make a strong return.
“If his motivation and desire are right, he can be an outstanding player for us.”
For Sale winger Solomona, who transferred codes to rugby union last year, it is a first-time offence in the England international set-up. Solomona scored the winning try on his England debut against Argentina in June.