Tuilagi weighs up Japan move
January 5, 2012
Tigers winger Alesana Tuilagi could be set for a big-money move to Japan © Getty Images
Leicester winger Alesana Tuilagi could be set for a move to Japan with the Tigers poised to sign Worcester's Miles Benjamin as a replacement.
The 31-year-old Tuilagi is out of contract at Welford Road at the end of the season and is reportedly considering ending his eight-year stint at the Aviva Premiership club in favour of a lucrative move to Japan.
"The Japanese are very interested in a player who is one of the most high-profile in the world," Tigers director of rugby Richard Cockerill told the Leicester Mercury "Alesana is 30 and it is probably going to be his last contract. It is of interest to him, and the numbers they talk about would be impossible for us to compete with.
"We'll obviously try and keep him but the money the Japanese talk about is in a different sphere to us. They want to raise the profile of their game - they host the World Cup in 2019 - and they can offer Alesana three to four times more than we could offer."
Tuilagi has made 151 appearances and scored 58 tries for the Tigers since joining from Italian side Parma in the summer of 2004 and at 18-and-a-half stone he would leave a sizeable void in the club's armoury. With fellow winger Horacio Agulla also approaching the end of his contract, the Tigers are looking to bolster their squad with rising star Benjamin in their sights.
But the Tigers are set to face stiff competition for the 23-year-old's services with Premiership rivals Northampton Saints because of the highly likely departure of England winger Chris Ashton to Saracens. Benjamin, who has scored 55 tries in a five-year stint at Sixways and is an England Saxons international, is also out of contract at the end of the season.
"I'm not convinced either Miles or Marcel [Garvey] will be at Sixways next season," Worcester boss Richard Hill told Worcester News. "We put contracts in front of them a while ago and they haven't signed them, which is an indication they are both keeping their options open and I wouldn't be surprised if either decide to move on.
"We'll do what we can to keep them, but when you offer a contract and wait for a month and they still haven't signed it, you have to have doubts that they will. Miles and his agent are saying they haven't made a decision yet, so I can only accept that, despite press reports saying he has signed elsewhere. I will go with what they are saying to me and I can only hope we can turn him around to stay at the club through some good results and moving up the table."
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