Ben Youngs has rejected any prospect of Manu Tuilagi re-joining Leicester Tigers following the expiration of his contract.
Telegraph Sport reported last week that Tuilagi had a 'change of heart' after failing to agree a reduced contract with the ten-time Gallagher Premiership champions and left the club along with five other players. One of that group, Telusa Veainu, was announced as a signing by Stade Francais on Tuesday.
Youngs however stressed that the deadline for Tuilagi to agree new terms with the side where he has spent his entire professional career had been and gone.
"I don’t know if there is that opportunity [for Tuilagi to re-join], to be honest with you," Youngs said. "As far as I’m aware, we had a deadline.
"I would be very, very surprised if that was the case [for him to re-join]. You don’t make those decisions [to leave] unless you really weigh it up. To then suddenly go full circle in a week’s time would seem a little bit crazy, so I don’t see that happening or evolving."
Whichever club Tuilagi ends up at, Youngs backed him to be in contention for next year's British and Irish Lions tour to South Africa, having previously toured with the side in 2013, and also recognised the legacy of the Tuilagi brothers after more than 20 years combined at Welford Road.
"Manu is an unbelievable, exceptional talent," Youngs explained. "I am sure he has every opportunity of making that Lions tour, whether he is playing in England or not. For me, I’ll see where it goes and if I get the opportunity, then great. I am sure I will meet him for a Guinness once Leicester is out of lockdown.
“Do I feel let down by Manu? Absolutely not. He has given a huge career to Leicester and his family has been a dynasty. There comes a time in anyone’s career when you change it up.
“Manu has been an amazing servant to Leicester along with all of his brothers, and he now has an opportunity to go somewhere else. I don’t feel any disappointment and the club will look to strengthen in those positions.
“If you didn’t agree to it there was a good chance you would be stood down and that happened. I’m sure it wouldn’t have been a decision made lightly by those guys.”
Leicester confirmed contract extensions on Wednesday for Youngs, on a long-term deal, plus England team-mates Ellis Genge and George Ford, and South African back Jaco Taute.
Youngs, who admitted he had the opportunity to leave Leicester years ago and turned it down, hailed the arrival of Steve Borthwick as head coach from the England coaching staff and the recruitment of Aled Walters, who has also joined Leicester as strength and conditioning coach from the Springboks.
"Under Steve, and the way we will train especially with Aled as well, we have a great coaching set-up there. We have the best opportunity that I have ever had at Leicester," Youngs declared.
The 30-year-old scrum-half is currently stranded on 99 caps for England after the suspension of the Six Nations, and added that he hoped the national side's schedule for the autumn would be confirmed sooner rather than later.
"Hopefully I get an opportunity to do that otherwise I feel I am going to get that question a lot," he added. "Soon would be nice."