Tuilagi prank: was England star right to apologise to Cameron?
Rugby player says sorry after making 'bunny ears' sign behind the Prime Minister's back
ENGLAND rugby star Manu Tuilagi was forced to apologise to David Cameron last night after playing a prank on the Prime Minister during a visit to Downing Street.
The Samoan-born centre made a pair of 'bunny ears' behind the PM's head with his fingers during a photocall outside Number 10 after a function in honour of the British and Irish Lions rugby squad that beat Australia this summer.
The photograph soon appeared on social networking sites, where it caused something of a storm, prompting the 22-year-old to issue his apology on Twitter.
Apologies for messing around on Lions photo. No offence intended. Great day at Downing Street. Thanks to Prime Minister for hosting us.
— ManuSamoa Tuilagi (@Manutuilagi) September 16, 2013
Although Tuilagi appeared repentant, his actions won approval in some quarters. Among his supporters was England cricketer Jonny Bairstow:
Just seen the Manu Tuilagi picture at Downing Street... Just couldn't help but have a little chuckle!! Gutsy!
— Jonathan Bairstow (@jbairstow21) September 17, 2013
There were scores of other tweets in support of Tuilagi, claiming that his gesture was just harmless fun, or "banter", and expressing surprise that he had apologised – or been forced to do so.
Thought Tuilagi's prank was really funny, no way he should have apologised and anyone offended should grow up.
— Peter Campbell (@petergcampbell) September 17, 2013
But some former England players were less than impressed by the player's behaviour. Among them was Matt Dawson.
— Matt Dawson (@matt9dawson) September 17, 2013
Other ex-internationals, including TV analysts Will Greenwood and Brian Moore, agreed his actions were inappropriate but believed the prank was harmless.
Manu Tuilagi incident grabbing the headlines. Not my type of thing. Slightly cringeworthy. Don't stone him for it.
— Will Greenwood (@GreenwoodRugby) September 17, 2013
Tuilagi, if he'd unveiled a banner saying 'Why is primary school sport funding being cut in 2 years time?' I'd have been impressed.
— Brian Moore (@brianmoore666) September 17, 2013
Tuilagi is no stranger to controversy on and off the pitch. While his five brothers have all played rugby for their native Samoa, Manu, who was brought up in Leicester, chose to represent England.
He broke into the England team just before the 2011 World Cup in New Zealand, even though he had jeopardised his chances of selection by punching international colleague Chris Ashton during a club match. He was given a five-week ban.
England endured a dismal World Cup but Tuilagi's performances provided some comfort. However, he was fined £3,000 by the Rugby Football Union after he jumped from a ferry following England's elimination from the tournament.
The Daily Telegraph says Tuilagi's swift apology may mean he avoids more disciplinary action. The paper adds: "His gesture pales in comparison to the visit of the 2005 Ashes-winning England [cricket] squad to Downing Street when it was alleged that a player urinated in the Prime Minister’s garden."