Manu Tuilagi’s Six Nations is over after brutally violent red card
Manu Tuilagi’s hopes of featuring in the final three rounds of this year’s Guinness Six Nations are probably over after the Sale Sharks centre picked up a red card against Northampton Saints in the Gallagher Premiership on Saturday.
The inside centre was red carded on 14 minutes at Franklin’s Gardens for a leading elbow to the head of England teammate Tommy Freeman when carrying the ball into contact. The British & Irish Lion apologised immediately after receiving the red card, but there was very little debate as to what colour the card was going to be.
A ball carrier cannot lead into contact with the forearm or elbow of their non-ball carrying arm if that arm is extended away from the body. Players have been red carded for this offence before, but Tuilagi’s carry looked particularly bad there, with his elbow looking more like something you would see in the UFC than on a rugby pitch.
The 31-year-old missed out on Steve Borthwick’s matchday squads against Scotland and Italy in the opening two rounds of the Championship, and was sent back to Sale during the fallow week to play and find a bit of form. However, this is not what Borthwick was expecting, and he will now probably have to do without the midfield powerhouse for the rest of the Championship with a ban coming. Fortunately for the coach, Ollie Lawrence made a very good account of himself on Sunday against Italy in a man of the match performance.
Take a look at the red card:
🟥 Manu Tuilagi's red card. #GallagherPrem pic.twitter.com/V1Ct4XDDF1
— Jared Wright (@jaredwright17) February 18, 2023
England take on Wales at the Principality Stadium next weekend in round three of the Six Nations, but it already seemed unlikely that Borthwick would change the midfield partnership that was conjured between Lawrence and Henry Slade against Italy. Other than the option of playing Owen Farrell at inside centre again, the midfield more or less picks itself now.