A month on from the last rumination on transfers it is probably time to look at the situation again and see what is the state of play.
Well the moves I didn’t see coming were the announcements, via the club’s propaganda wing aka the Leicester Mercury, of Neil Briggs from London Welsh and Ryan Lamb from Northampton. We all knew that a fly half was coming but the smoke signals coming over the Welford Road were that Lamb’s erstwhile colleague Stephen Myler was the one in our sights. Lamb is a fair signing for what we are after. He’s never really been a number 2 anywhere so it is difficult to say how he will react to the long periods when he will simply have to kick his heels and wait for Flood to be injured or called away with England. We know he’s a quality operator when all is well but there are nagging doubts as his youthful promise has slowly turned into a journeyman career with little to show for it.
Neil Briggs is out at the moment after apparently undergoing shoulder surgery, not exactly the most fortuitous thing for a hooker to have just before signing! Briggs had a long career at Sale before spending a season in the French second division with Bourgoin. He’s a good player but a bad signing. With Tom Youngs and Rob Hawkins both here for next year we are not really short of a senior hooker. Jimmy Stevens is 22 now and should be given the chance to push on and stake his claim. With Chuter leaving in the summer this was the perfect opportunity for Stevens to step up into 3rd choice, which isn’t exactly over played as it is, and youngster Charlie Clare or Harry Thacker to take over as bright young thing playing A team rugby or going out on loan. In a limited salary cap I find it hard to believe that Briggs will be cheaper than Stevens and price is surely a major factor in a position that has only been required to start 3 games this season.
It’s one thing moaning about the salary cap, but you have to help yourself first and not waste money on good players that are rarely going to play.
Since the last update there has been no further word on Jamie Gibson or David Mele, either to confirm their arrival at this club or another, so once again the mighty word of Pravda will have to do. As stated before Mele looks like a decent addition to the squad whilst Gibson looks very much like the Briggs signing. A cracking player but where is the need? Can a player of 6’5” really be a true ball snatching openside or am I merely being sizest? I find the idea that he is suffering from a sort of reverse Neil Back syndrome hard to believe.
Of more interest this week is the departures; Kieran Brookes has gone on a “dual registration” deal to Newcastle, surely a precursor to a permanent move in the summer, whilst Jonny Harris and Alex Lewington have both been linked with a move to Premiership strugglers London Irish.
After Harris’s solid debut against Wasps in November I’m disappointed that he seems to be considered surplus to requirements. At only 22 he has reached skeletal maturity and surely ready to battle Boris Stankovich for his spot as a semi-regular in the match day squad. With Marcos Ayerza away with Argentina and Logovi’i Mulipola looking likely to move permanently to tighthead we will have to replace Harris as surely Cockerill wouldn’t want to go into the season with only teenagers to cover a Stankovich injury. This seems utterly self defeating, unless there is a high class prop to come. Even if that was the case and a player like Irish’s Max Lahiff or Welsh’s Franck Montanella was signed you would have to ask again is that really value for money under the salary cap?
I’m more phlegmatic about Alex Lewington’s proposed departure. Whilst I’m fairly concerned that he hasn’t been given a chance and that we have signed 5 wingers over the past two season rather than try him out he hasn’t made an undeniable case in the A team for regular inclusion. 6 tries in 17 Championship games is a handy return though for the Nottingham born winger. We also have talented wings coming of age from the academy in A-League top scorer Henry Purdy and 17 year old Rhys Williams, plus someone like Pasqualle Dunn who will probably find himself on the wing in adult rugby despite playing centre in the academy. We also have Miles Benjamin to hopefully fit in somewhere.
In the backrow Wessel Jooste has departed to Castres with immediate effect, without so much as playing a single game. There have been murmurings that Brett Deacon is to leave Tigers again and either join ex-Tigers coaches Deano and John Wells at Newcastle or perhaps depart to France. That would be a shame as Brett has proven his worth time and time again in the Tigers environment but has struggled out of it. He is the perfect squad man, covering two positions to a high standard and by all accounts brilliant in the changing room. Richard Thorpe, Lucas Guillame and Michael Noone are all still with us but have unknown futures. Guillame is only here as a student at De Montford University so will surely leave in the summer when his course finishes; Thorpe meanwhile hasn’t really impressed and was only signed as injury cover so will surely be moving on. Noone made a big splash in the A league and then made solid appearances in the LV Cup. Perhaps those appearances are praying on Cockerill’s mind when he offers Deacon a contract as Noone does look capable of stepping into his shoes.
I can’t for the life of me think that our back row signings are complete. The John Barclay rumour is currently going incredibly cool from the Leicester end with Simon Cohen all but ruling it out on BBC Radio Leicester, whilst it seems to be hotting up from the Glasgow end with The Times and several other individuals claiming it is a done deal. Looking at who has gone out and might go out (Newby, Woods, Jooste, Thorpe, Deacon, Guillame) it is surely inconceivable that only one player would come in?
Other names that have been linked are Saracens’ Andy Saul, who would fit the bill in terms of being an out and out 7 and looking to push on but still relatively cheap, Wasps’ Jonathan Poff, again affordable and an out and out 7 but this time no chance of international rugby and Joel Koffi the Carcassone flanker. Given our predilection for Pro D2 players Koffi is probably my betting tip but any would nicely balance out the squad.
Still available are Phil Dowson and Newcastle’s Will Welch but they may well be out of our price range and too happy at their current club respectively, a cheeky outside option might be former trialist James Doyle making a return from Sale.
Moving on to the backs Tigers are apparently looking at Llanelli & Scarlets fly half Owen Williams to fill the younger fly half spot vacated by George Ford, the 21 year old was Tigers tormentor in the recent LV Cup clash. Other players being watches are Moseley’s former Saints fly half Glyn Hughes and Jersey’s Michael Le Bourgeois who can play across the backline.
Tigers have now been linked with a glut of wingers, including USA international Luke Hume and Gonzalo Camacho. Both now seem set to go to France and I can’t imagine Tigers are going to try and break the bank for either. One player whose name keeps coming up is Anthony Watson of London Irish. The England U-20s full back is pacey, large and posses a big boot. He is getting good game time at Irish so unless they are relegated leaving would be a bit of a gamble. Previously it was thought he was going to Bath along with several colleagues but just recently a Tigers link has been re-emerging. It might not set the hearts a flutter like the rumoured interest in Leigh Halfpenny but could be just as good in the longer term; especially if Geordan Murphy can be convinced to give us one more year.