England centre Manu Tuilagi is one of six players stood down by Leicester Tigers amid a Welford Road contract stand-off, the PA news agency understands.
British and Irish Lions star Tuilagi, Kyle Eastmond, Telusa Veainu, Greg Bateman, Noel Reid and Jordan Taufua are yet to sign new, reduced terms with the Gallagher Premiership club.
Leicester set their players a deadline of Tuesday evening to sign new deals on lower terms, to reflect the impact of the coronavirus pandemic and also the upcoming salary cap reductions.
England stars George Ford and Ellis Genge are understood to have agreed new deals before the Tuesday deadline, but six senior stars now remain in continued dispute with the club.
All six players yet to agree new terms are thought to have sought legal advice on their situations.
Tuilagi has 43 England caps and one for the Lions, and is approaching the peak of his powers at 29.
The Samoa-born centre will be able to command a sizeable contract in either France or Japan, and his Leicester team-mates Veainu and Taufua will doubtless be in similar demand.
Leicester revealed the pandemic has already cost them approximately £5million in revenue, but crucially the Tigers were unable to give an update on Tuilagi’s situation in a lengthy statement on Wednesday.
The Tigers were 11th in the Gallagher Premiership table when the season was suspended in March due to Covid-19.
With Welford Road out of action since, Leicester believe up to 31 members of staff could be made redundant.
“The club’s commercial activities have felt the pandemic’s impact more than most Premiership Rugby clubs, given the size of its stadium and fan base,” a club statement read.
“To date, the club has missed out on approximately £5million of revenues since it was last able to host matchdays or events at Welford Road.
“The board recognises and is grateful for the significant sacrifices made across the club’s community to ensure a sustainable long-term financial footing for Tigers.
“Fans have kept season ticket money in the club and sponsors have continued to be supportive.”
Leicester have made use of the government furlough scheme, but on Wednesday concluded a redundancy process which could see numerous staff leave in addition to “a small number of players” moving on to seek new opportunities elsewhere.
The club statement continued: “The players were asked to accept reduced wages and, following feedback, we created a mechanism through which a proportion of forgone earnings could be reclaimed when the club returns to profitability.
“At the same time, salaries of lower-paid players beginning their professional careers were protected. In common with other club employees, these changes resulted from detailed explanations of the club’s financial position and the necessity of the measures being taken.
“Our focus throughout this crisis has been to put the club first and to ensure the long-term sustainability and competitiveness of Tigers.
“The vast majority of players fully support our recovery plans and will be working with Geordan Murphy and Steve Borthwick on the way forward, beginning with the phased return to training and proposed resumption of the 2019-20 season.”