Leicester’s Tuilagi banned from Saracens showdown

LEICESTER centre Manu Tuilagi will miss the Premiership final on Saturday week against Saracens after he was handed a five-week ban for striking Northampton’s England winger Chris Ashton.

A push from Ashton, which provoked Tuilagi’s attack, meant his initial suspension of 10 weeks was halved.

His offence, which left Ashton requiring stitches above his left eye, was rated as a “top level entry point” by the Rugby Football Union’s disciplinary panel.

The Samoan-born 20-year-old has impressed in the Tigers’ midfield this season prompting a call-up to the England Saxons squad.

However, he will now be absent from their Churchill Cup campaign diminishing the chances of him winning a late World Cup squad berth.

Tuilagi will, therefore, miss the chance to press his case in second-string matches against USA, Tonga and another as-yet-unknown side as his ban expires five days after Churchill Cup finals day on 18 June.

The matches against Wales on 6 and 13 August and Ireland on 27 August conclude England’s World Cup preparations and would offer him a final opportunity to force his way onto the place bound for New Zealand in September.

Meanwhile, Dan Hipkiss may come into the Leicester backline for the season ending showpiece at Twickenham.

A return for the former England star, who has been kept out of Richard Cockerill’s side by Tuilagi’s partnership with Anthony Allen, would revive memories of his late try to secure victory for the Tigers in last year’s final against Saracens.