England centre Manu Tuilagi is one of five players to have departed Leicester Tigers, the club’s chief executive Andrea Pinchen has confirmed.
Several players, including 29-year-old British and Irish Lion Tuilagi, have been locked in a contract dispute with the Premiership strugglers.
Players have been offered amended deals because of the financial implications of the coronavirus outbreak.
Kyle Eastmond, Telusa Veainu, Greg Batemen and Noel Reid have also left.
In a live video interview broadcast via the club’s media channels on Wednesday, Pinchen said that “our fans deserve to know” which players had departed, before going on to name the five.
“There’s no blame game here, this is people we’re talking about,” she said. “Everyone has their own circumstances and own thoughts about what they can or can’t do, or will or won’t do.
“What’s vital now is that we have a squad that’s all on board, believes in what we’re doing moving forward and starts to push forward.
“If some couldn’t, then we wish them well, shake them by the hand and wish them well for the next chapter.
“It’s really no more or less sinister than that. It’s simply that we had to go down one path. The majority of people are going down that path with us and a handful couldn’t.”
Centre Eastmond, who has also played for England six times, arrived at Welford Road from Wasps in 2018.
Tuilagi has been with Tigers since 2009, winning 43 England caps since then and representing the Lions during their 2013 tour of Australia.
What’s the background?
Like all clubs, Leicester Tigers have been hit hard financially by coronavirus, suffering losses of £5m and making 31 staff redundant.
Having asked staff and players to take a 25% reduction in their salaries “across the board” in the early stages of the pandemic, the club have continued to renegotiate contracts with their players, setting a deadline of Tuesday by which decisions needed to be made.
On 8 June, Premiership teams also unanimously agreed to reduce the salary cap from £6.4m to £5m to help cope with the losses incurred as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.
However, only 75% of wages from deals signed before 18 June will count towards the salary cap from the start of the 2021-22 season.
Tigers are 11th in the Premiership but not in danger of relegation this season as Saracens have already been demoted to next season’s Championship because of salary cap breaches.