Manu Tuilagi agrees Bayonne move and brings England career to a close

<span>Manu Tuilagi will bow out with 60 caps for England.</span><span>Photograph: Andrew Matthews/PA</span>
Manu Tuilagi will bow out with 60 caps for England.Photograph: Andrew Matthews/PA

Manu Tuilagi has agreed to join ­Bayonne on a two-year deal in the summer, bringing an end to his England career. The 32-year-old made his swansong appearance off the bench against France last Saturday and is set to make himself ineligible for England by joining the Top 14 side.

A host of clubs were interested in Tuilagi’s signature but it is believed that, following the conclusion of the Six Nations, the centre visited Bayonne on Monday to undergo a medical. Provided he passes all the necessary checks he will join the club ninth in the Top 14.

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His England career will end with 60 caps, having made his debut in 2011, but Tuilagi would have won significantly more but for a litany of injuries. He ended his 11-year spell at Leicester Tigers in 2020, joining Sale, who had been open to keeping Tuilagi for another year, but doing so and remaining under the salary cap proved unfeasible. The Sharks announced the signing of the Fiji captain Waisea Nayacalevu over the weekend to act as Tuilagi’s replacement.

Tuilagi can list his breakthrough performance against New Zealand in 2012 and his World Cup semi-final showing against the All Blacks in 2019 as his greatest achievements in an England shirt. Steve Borthwick last week spoke of how he hoped Tuilagi would remain in England – and therefore eligible for selection – but it is understood he has not been offered an “enhanced” contract by the Rugby Football Union for next season.

Tuilagi’s move means that, next season, no fewer than eight of Borthwick’s 2023 World Cup squad will be playing in France, with Billy Vunipola and Kyle Sinckler potentially taking the total to double figures. Borthwick will be able to offer enhanced contracts to 25 players – Jamie George and Maro Itoje are the only known members of his squad to have received offers so far – but, in the meantime, the exodus to France is continuing.

“All details have not been confirmed,” said Borthwick. “I’m waiting to have them and understand them.”