Life in Europe a ‘culture shock’ for Pacific Islanders, says Manu Tuilagi
Manu Tuilagi has called for greater support for Pacific Islands stars in Europe, to end the kind of honest mistakes that almost saw him deported from the UK in 2010.
England centre Tuilagi has joined the Pacific Rugby Players Welfare (PRPW) board to help stars of Islands heritage cope with the “culture shock” of adjusting to life in the UK and Europe.
Leicester and the Rugby Football Union (RFU) successfully campaigned to stop Samoa-born Tuilagi being deported over living in the UK for almost six years on an expired holiday visa.
Tuilagi believes a support network like PRPW could have helped avoid the unwitting errors that almost ended his rugby career in England.
Tuilagi told Press Association Sport: “The situation with the visa caught us all out. I really didn’t know anything about it at the time. Growing up in Samoa we would never have had to deal with paperwork like that, so these are the kinds of problems and issues players can face.
“Things like that could be avoided hopefully, with the extra level of support and guidance that PRPW is aiming to provide. Here you’ve got to work and earn your living. Back in Samoa you can live off the land, you don’t pay tax, you own your own house and land.
“So those are the things you just don’t know anything about when you arrive here. It was a big culture shock coming to England, coping with the lifestyle changes, the little things day by day.”
Tuilagi joined his star Leicester Tigers brothers in the East Midlands in 2003, arriving on a holiday visa that was never amended. The British and Irish Lions centre nearly had his fledgling UK rugby career swept away aged just 19, so knows all about the harsh realities of adjusting to cultural and procedural differences.
Former Samoa, Wasps and London Irish lock Dan Leo launched PRPW to provide practical and moral support to stars of Islands heritage plying their trade in the UK and Europe. Tuilagi attended the group’s inaugural AGM at Kenilworth Rugby Club in Warwickshire on Sunday, along with England and Wasps number eight Nathan Hughes and Leicester and Australia centre Matt Toomua.
Leicester team-mates Tuilagi and Toomua have joined PRPW’s 14-strong players’ board, and are keen to propel the organisation’s growth.