The big news that Manu has decided to stay will take the Tuilagi Tigers dynasty past its 20th anniversary at the club.
Back in October 2000, oldest brother Freddie made his debut for the club as a rugby league convert with a distinctive hairstyle and tasty line in bone-shuddering tackles. Little did we know that we would still be living his legacy almost two decades later.
Even in the trophy-filled years around the millennium and the special days in Cup Finals at home and abroad, the memory of one particular Freddie try at Welford Road still ranks right up there as a spine-tingler. It was, of course, the one against Gloucester during that long unbeaten run when his score shook the club’s grand old home to its foundations. Those memories do not go away.
In his wake, Henry made a massive impression, most undeniably on opposition defences. His Tigers days were full of rampaging runs and bruising encounters with anyone who dared to get in his way. At his best, he looked unplayable and it is a pity that injuries played a part before he moved on to Perpignan where his legend lives on.
Alesana still holds the #TuilagiFamily record for tries and appearances with Tigers, though both are now in range for Manu. A hat-trick against Gloucester and a semi-final try against Saints which prompted wild celebrations in front of the Clubhouse crowd still make The Tig tingle, though not as much as the Gloucester defenders – them again – in the Premiership Final of 2007 when Alesana and Seru Rabeni blasted holes left, right and centre.
Manu followed in his brothers’ considerable footsteps, initially playing alongside Alesana in a backline which also featured his current boss Geordan Murphy.
We’ll all have special Manu memories, beginning with the innocent joy of his game as he made his way and a colossal hit on legendary Carlos Spencer in that Classic All Blacks fixture when he was still a teenager.
A breakthrough year in 2010/11 heralded a new hero and, although ‘that’ meeting with Chris Ashton produced its share of the headlines, there were plenty more magical moments with club and country over the following seasons.
Just a fortnight ago, media sources were claiming an exclusive on stories that he’d signed a lucrative three-year deal with Racing 92 in Paris. Backpedalling faster than a defender facing a Tuilagi in midfield, they’re now celebrating his continued presence in the England frame.
Even allowing for the frustrating injury absences, Manu remains one of the brightest stars in the world game. As Tigers fans, we’ve seen that star burn brightly for nearly a decade and now we’ll have a few years more. Thanks very much!