Tuilagi helping Pacific players in Europe

Leicester's center from England Manu Tuilagi (C) has joined the Pacific Rugby Players Welfare board to help players from a similar background cope with the challenges that come alongside the chance to earn significantly more money in Europe

Manu Tuilagi wants rugby players from the Pacific Islands plying their trade in Europe to get greater off-field support as they adjust to the "culture shock" of life far away from home.

Samoa-born Tuilagi was almost deported from Britain in 2009 after living in the United Kingdom for nearly six years on an expired holiday visa.

But Leicester, his club, and England's governing Rugby Football Union campaigned successfully against his proposed deportation.

Now the England centre has joined the Pacific Rugby Players Welfare (PRPW) board to help players from a similar background cope with the challenges that come alongside the chance to earn significantly more money in Europe than is on offer back home in the islands.

"The situation with the visa caught us all out," Tuilagi told Britain's Press Association on Monday. "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," he added.

Tuilagi did at least have family around him when he arrived as a 19-year-old in England, with his brothers already playing at Leicester.

"I was lucky because my brothers were here already when I came to England," said Tuilagi. "But even then I still found it hard to adjust."

There are more than 80 players of Pacific islands heritage in the Premiership alone and some several hundred across Europe as a whole.

Fiji-born Wasps and England forward Nathan Hughes, who came to Britain from New Zealand, also hailed the potential impact of the work done by PRPW.

"My first year in England was tough," said Hughes, who joined Wasps from Auckland in 2013. "I was born in Fiji but although I'd lived in New Zealand for several years it was still hard settling here.

"Hopefully this organisation can achieve a lot, but I'm sure we can definitely help players cope better with that sort of adjustment."