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Tigers glad that 'sanity prevailed' after citing of Tuilagi.

LEICESTER have declared that "sanity prevailed" after Manu Tuilagi's citing for a dangerous tackle was dismissed.

The England centre faced an independent disciplinary hearing in London and pleaded not guilty to making a high challenge on Chris Cloete in the 49th minute of Sunday's Champions Cup defeat by Munster at Welford Road.

His former British and Irish Lions team-mate Brian O'Driscoll insisted the "game has gone soft" in response to the citing and Leicester director of rugby Matt O'Connor was satisfied by a decision that clears Tuilagi to start against Saracens on Sunday.

"We're really thankful because Manu has just had a much publicised lay-off from the game and is back fit and had got through a quality 80 minutes," O'Connor told BBC Sport.

"After his first game back it would have been devastating for him and the group if he was to miss more games, but thankfully sanity prevailed.

"I was very surprised when the citing came though. There was no malicious intent, it wasn't particularly high. It was a pretty sound tackle from our perspective.

"Everything Manu does is scrutinised because he's such a fantastic talent. There will always be headlines around Manu and everyone understands that."

The three-strong disciplinary panel found that while Tuilagi had committed "a reckless act of foul play in that his shoulder had made contact with Cloete's head", the offence did not warrant a red card.

The decision to issue the citing was met with widespread disapproval and O'Connor has reminded lawmakers - eager to clamp down on dangerous play - of the inherent risks of playing rugby.

"It's a collision sport and we have to make sure we don't pander to health and safety issues. It's a highlyphysical game played by tough players," O'Connor said.

"I don't think we need lawmakers to be overly-hard, to get that physical dominance and play the game how it was intended to be played.

"Everyone is working hard at all levels of the game to make sure the duty of care is there, that guys at grass roots level are taught the appropriate technique and players are looked after at all levels.

"But it's a highly-physical collision sport and you're going to have guys getting injured unfortunately."

Tuilagi was making his first appearance since returning from the knee surgery required after being injured on the opening day of the season.

Serious chest, groin, knee and hamstring injuries have plagued his career for the past four years and his most recent international appearance was against Wales in March in 2016.

Tuilagi's career has been chequered by repeated off-field disciplinary issues, including a conviction for assaulting two female police officers in 2015 that resulted in his exclusion from England's World Cup squad later that year.

The 26-year-old's most recent transgression saw him being sent home from England's August training camp in disgrace after undertaking a late night drinking session with Denny Solomona.

However, his solitary suspension was the five weeks received for punching Chris Ashton in 2011.

Meanwhile, Leinster prop Cian Healy was handed a three-week suspension after pleading guilty to charging into a ruck in the Irish province's Champions Cup win over Exeter Chiefs on Saturday. The Ireland front-rower was shown a yellow card by referee Pascal Gauzere after his forearm connected with the head of Luke Cowan-Dickie.

The committee upheld the citing complaint at a disciplinary hearing after determining that the offence warranted a red card.

The offence was deemed at the low end of World Rugby's sanctions and an entry point of two weeks was handed down with a further week added due to Healy's poor recent disciplinary record.

Chiefs' Mitch Lees had a citing for charging into a ruck dismissed.

CAPTION(S):

Leicester Tigers and England centre Manu Tuilagi, who has seen his citing for a dangerous tackle on Munster's Chris Cloete in last Sunday's Champions Cup defeat dismissed by an independent disciplinary hearing David Davies
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Title Annotation:Sport
Publication:The Journal (Newcastle, England)
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Dec 21, 2017
Words:650
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