Monday, 28 October 2013

It's rugby Jim, but not as we know it

It looked a bit rugby, at times it seemed to share some of the rules and was certainly played with an oval ball by mostly 15 players but it definitely was not rugby.

With no recognised fly half fit for action Tigers first had teenage scum half George Tressider fill the gap, then after half time decided to play no fly half at all.  George Catchpole seemed the nominal fly half but all the backs took turns looking clueless at 10.

If any spectator was in any doubt about the importance of the maestro at 10 they surely aren't now.  Without any threat of a the kick or chip Sale could play 15 men flat in a line and out flank anything Tigers threw at them.

Tigers played almost the entire game in the Sale 22.  They had the ball for at least three quarters of the match.  They were kept scoreless for 72 minutes.

Tigers knew that to get a semi final place they needed 4 tries, they seemed to forget that they also needed the win.

Sale had two chances and took them.  The first try was from a smart break by Nathan Fowles the England Under 20s half back.  Fowles made the snip around the fringes of the ruck before passing to hooker Cameron Neild to finish off for a 7-0 lead after only 3 minutes.

Tigers then proceed to chart the course of the rest of the match by gaining territory, earning a penalty, kicking it to the corner and messing it up.

It was another 20 minutes until Sale's second chance came but they took it smartly.  Sam Harrison was charged down giving the Tigers a lineout around the 22.  The lineout was overthrown and the wily Aston Croall pounced on the ball surging through the attempted tackle before turning and passing inside to lock Tom Sanders for the try.  12-0.

Tigers again took the play to Sale but with no one fixing the defence it merely went side to side with no cutting edge.

The scrum was simply a mess with uncountable resets.  Tigers had the forward shove but Sale number 8 Juan Crous dealt with it superbly simply by picking and going.  Our Flankers were caught flat footed near enough every time.  Despite the power clearly being on our side the first two penalties were awarded to the Cheshire side. 

The second, for standing up in the scrum, was kicked to within 5 meters of the line.  Quick ball off the top was swept to former Huddersfield and Fylde fly half Chris Johnson for the snap drop goal.  15-0.

Just 4 minutes later and Sale had a penalty.  This time the scrum had gone down but referee Craig Maxwell-Keys gave the penalty in favour of Tom Bristow.  If only that was the end.  The Sale pack flatly refused to give the ball to the Harrison, then attempted to drag him into a fight.  Bristow being the nearest player to this cynicism reacted.

So the result of this Sale penalty then Sale deny the ball to the team offended against?  Yes obviously it was a reversal and a yellow card for Bristow.  Given it took neigh on 20 penalties inside the Sale 22 for the visitors to see yellow it must have been some punch.

As an aside I googled Maxwell-Keys to see just how old he is and the first page of results contained 3 match reports all complaining of his handling of matches.  Now I know "good ref" isn't a headline but that tells its own tale.

Deserved or not it made the score 18-0.  The half was cut short by a nasty looking injury to the impressive Fowles.  The injury cased play to stop.  Now the way I understand the rules is that the ball has to go dead to end the half, an injury break is not a dead ball so the game should continue.  40 minutes were up but the way the half was only halted once the injury looks serious suggests to me the full time had not been played on the referee's watch.

The second half was largely one large blur of mediocrity.  No one really stepped forward and took control.  Tigers just re-cycled the ball over and over again with no real shape or direction.  The penalty count rocketed as Sale pushed their luck. 

Tigers were so concerned about the try count they took their eye off winning the game.  With no penalties kicked at goal Sale's only concern at the breakdown was a yellow card.  Even after a warning it took another 4 penalties for one to be produced for try scorer Neild.

Laughably from the very next lineout Aston Croall entered the maul from completely the wrong side, literally walking around the back and stopping our scrum half taking the ball.  The referee saw it.  He gave the penalty.  But no card?  You've just binned a man for cheating in the maul, it clearly hasn't deterred them so bin another one.

It took the full 10 minutes of playing against 14 for Tigers to batter the Sale defence down and score the try.  Irish number 8 and captain for the day Michael Noone squeezed over after every man and his dog had a crack at the line.

The simple art of drawing your man and passing seems beyond all our players at every level at the moment.

To be fair Harry Thacker did it a few times.  Maybe play him at 12 on Saturday?

Tigers up turn in fortune was basically a result of trying harder.  Harry Wells broke a tackle, Pasquali smashed a ruck and suddenly the team had energy where before it was lacking.  The crowd got stuck into the ref a bit more and suddenly we were in the ascendency.  

But still the Sale defence stood firm and the penalties kept coming.  Miles Benjamin eventually sneaked through the middle of the ruck to score again but it was too little too late.  The referee indicated 6 minutes left and Tigers tried to the end but a Thacker knock on after a fantastic break was the last chance.

With every first team shirt up for grabbs this was a poor show from the team.  No leaders really stood out and none of the backs took control in the way a Matt Smith or Matt Cornwell would.  On that show I can see why Cockerill is reluctant to pick these guys, they are hardly making an unanswerable case.

Sunday, 27 October 2013

Wasps Too Goode for Tigers

A sublime game from former Tigers hero Andy Goode gave Wasps a 22-12 victory today at Adams Park.  In wet and windy conditions Goode's judicious use of the boot gave Wasps great territory but it was two long range drop goals when the hosts were down to 14 men that made the difference.

Tigers were poor and a pale shadow of the side that won the title last May.  The forwards were largely ineffectual; their carrying was often static and the scrum, despite early successes, was neutered by Wasps tactics of stepping out and pushing across.  The half backs failed to shape the game, in stark contrast to master tactician Goode, as they couldn't seem to decide between playing a wide game or a tight forward one.

The conditions certainly contributed to handling errors from both sides but Mele's slow and loopy delivery put constant pressure on debutant Williams.  Without a strong carrier in the backline it was often up to Bowden or Hepetema to take the crash ball; it is not their strength.  The backline was in some way cobbling together what we had left and was unbalanced and not reflecting the tactics we were trying to play, but we have an academy bursting with strong physical ball carriers who can punch a gap.  Dunn, Pohe or Purdy can carry all day and despite their tender years take some stopping.

The match started fairly well for Leicester.  Williams missed an early penalty from wide right then another from well within his own half as Tigers played with the wind.  Tigers had all the possession and territory.

The Wasps try came from a scrum on our own put in.  Andrew Small, feeling the pressure from what few Wasps fans had bothered to turn up, whistled David Mele for feeding.  With Jamie Gibson taking a wander to roll around on the floor with Ashley Johnson the Tigers back row was bent out of shape.  Neither Mele nor Waldrom prevented the quick tap nor got back into position.  

It was star man Goode who spotted the gaping hole in the tigers pack and went quickly.  Tigers held out on the first phase but when play came back towards the left hand touchline Adam Thompstone went A.W.O.L. from the defensive line to give Christian Wade an easy run in.  So poor from a first choice player.

Tigers attack was often rushed and where it could find fluency Wasps were quick to kill the ball and stop the flow dead.  Before half time Williams nailed 3 penalties to Goode's 2 making the score 13-9.  Wasps second penalty deserves greater analysis as it was simply bizarre refereeing.  

First Simpson kicks the ball out of the scrum, then he runs into Mele.  How this sequence of events ended with a Wasps penalty is completely beyond me.  Small was being badly influenced by the home fans at this point.  He may as well have given the whistle to Frank Adams Stand as they seemed to be the sole arbiters of whether a throw was straight or not.

Tigers started the second half with renewed resolve.  A surging maul gained some 20 yards before Wasps opted to cheat and pull it to ground.  Williams seemed to be deliberately slicing his touch kicks, the main effect of which was taking a good 10 meters off the distance.  With the lineout between the 22m and 10m line, it was an interesting position to attack from but Tom Palmer's challenge in the air was ruled excessive.

Small refused to speak to the multi-capped England lock and insisted on only speaking to the captain.  This kind of high handed arrogance from referees is so disrespectful to the players it amazes me they have the cheek to demand respect in return.  What he could possibly be saying?  "Don't do it again" is the jist, just say it the player!  He is an adult for god's sake!

Not wanting to get dragged into a tit for tat penalty battle Tigers opted to again kick for touch.  From the lineout Mulipola wrapped around the front but lost the ball in the tackle.  A poor lineout from Wasps resulted in a turnover though and Tigers continued to charge for the line.

After the 5th penalty inside the home 22 Small finally lost patience and Carlo Festuccia was sent to the bin after not releasing his man after the tackle.  Again Tigers spurned the chance for three and went for a scrum.  It squirted out after a lack of control from Waldrom and Mele.  Tigers retained the possesion and went left then went right.  

They went up, they went down they went every way but forward.  Panicked and rushed passes drew no defenders, forwards getting the ball standing still were driven back until eventually Joe Simpson stripped the ball and cleared his lines.

This was for me the defining spell of the game as Tigers seemed to slip from going for the win to simply keeping in touch.  Wasps snuck into the Tigers half and Goodey stepped up to welly the drop goal.  He had missed every single one of his attempts in the warm up but made no mistake with his second attempt either.  Just a few moments after his first drop goal, this time from further out on the angle, after Tigers had failed to deal with Elliot Daly's high ball.

Clive Woodward used to talk about T-CUP, Thinking Clearly Under Pressure.  Body on fire, mind in the fridge.  Maybe our Director should dust off the power point and get down to Oval Park next Tuesday.  He could start with David Mele.  As regularly readers will know I'm never one to shy away from a cliche and Mele certainly seems desperate to show his latin temperament.  More like body in the fridge and mind on fire.

After flapping his arms about and a cathartic bit of stamping he decided to try and get in on the drop goal act.  Why?  Good question.  We have plenty of time.  We need a try at some point to win the game.

It missed.  It wasn't even close.

Eventually we did trouble the scorers as Williams slotted his 4th penalty.  A smart break from Mele had finally got Tigers running forwards at some pace and into the broken field.  With the Wasps defence stepping in man after man the gap would surely appear on the end of the line.  But before it got there Tom Lindsay stuck his arm out to halt the ball's progress and paid with a penalty.

It looked like we would at least escape with the losing bonus point, but Small intervened once again.  Mele's box kick was inch perfect and Blaine Scully showed his trademark effort to get under it.  He and Goode rose to contest the catch, both clearly went for the ball but it was the Wasps man who won it.  

Small gave the most dreadful of decisions.  It's not tiddlywinks.  What was Scully's option?  This is a competitive game.  He is allowed to try and catch the ball.  It cost us the point when Goode's long range effort sailed through the posts but we were so poor I can't say we were robbed.

Tigers attack was constipated for much of the match, with Mele particularly struggling to energise the forwards.  Yet, again, Cockerill kept most of his subs unused.  We've seen what impact a fresh scrum half can have on a game, so why not let Harrison have a run out?  The forwards aren't making an impact and are struggling in the scrum, why not try Balmain or Stankovich?  Balmain would give absolutely everything.  Look at Slater to see what sheer effort can bring you.  It energises the other players too.

For next week we need a coherent team and tactics.  Playing a physical game is fine, but you have to pick physical centres to make it work.  Trust the young players to start and keep a guy like Mulipola back to smash their resolve on 50 minutes.

Friday, 25 October 2013

Richard Cockerill returns from his RFU imposed match day exile and will be seeking to inspire his side to their first win at Adams Park since 2007.  Also returning to the Tigers fold is loosehead prop Marcos Ayerza who will make a fleeting 2 week return home before rejoining the Argentinean test squad for the Autumn internationals.

Ayerza is one of 7 changes from the side that gained the bonus point at home to Treviso by the skin of its teeth.  Most of those are forced rest thanks to the EPS agreement.

Owen Williams will make his full Tigers debut after Toby Flood was retained in the England squad by Stuart Lancaster.  Williams is a 21 year old fly half originally from Ystradgynlais near Neath in the Valleys.  He is no novice despite his age; he has started a Rabo Pro12 semi final, away to Ulster, and a Welsh Premiership Final away to Pontypridd.  Williams played 13 games for the Scarlets and a further 48 for Llanelli in the Principality Premiership.

In the centres injury has now robbed Cockerill of 4 of his 5 first choice options.  Manu Tuilagi (chest), Anthony Allen (thigh), Matt Smith (Hand) and Vereniki Goneva (Calf) are all on the treatment table.  This means Dan Bowden and Terrence Hepetema will start in the midfield.

Niall Morris has spent the week training with the Ireland squad but will continue at 15 in the absence of Mat Tait.  The wings tasked with keeping Christian Wade locked up are two of last week’s try scoring heroes Adam Thompstone and Eagles international Blaine Scully.

In the front row Ayerza starts at loosehead with Neil Briggs replacing the rested Tom Youngs,  Logovi’i Mulipola moves from 1 to 3.  Geoff Parling and Graham Kitchener both miss out as Louis Deacon captains the side from the middle row.  Ed Slater takes Kitchener’s jumper as Jamie Gibson starts in his place at blindside.

Impressive Argentinean flanker Pablo Matera is one of 6 forwards on the bench and will make his Tigers debut if required.  Also  bench warming as Boris Stankovich, George Chuter, Fraser Balmain, Sebastian De Chaves, Jordan Crane, Miles Benjamin and Sam Harrison.

Tigers travel to Adams Park with a poor recent record at the ground.  Tigers have lost on each of their past 5 visits with the most recent victory coming back in 2007.  Last season’s game was scarred by Sean Davey’s “refereeing” but the year before, played during the World Cup, was an all time classic as 29 points from Billy Twelvetrees were bettered by a Christian Wade hat trick in a 35-29 defeat. 

Sunday’s referee will be Andrew Small, the man who held the whistle in that classic match.  The New Zealander has refereed the Tigers 18 times, with Leicester winning 12 and losing 6.  The most recent of which saw Richard Cockerill condemn Small as “uneducated” on scrums after his woeful handling of last December’s Leicester-Gloucester match. 

This will also be the first match day of the season that Cockerill will be allowed to have contact with the team.  The unprecedented 7 game ban for swearing whilst talking to a 4th offical has taken its toll on the great man and his team but now he is back to provide his inimitable brand of motivation and tactical advice.

Cockerill has vowed to not change his approach despite the persecution he has suffered from officialdom.  Haters going to hate.

Leicester Tigers
15 Niall Morris
14 Blaine Scully
13 Terrence Hepetema
12 Dan Bowden
11 Adam Thompstone
10 Owen Williams
9 David Mélé
1 Marcos Ayerza
2 Neil Briggs
3 Logovi'i Mulipola
4 Louis Deacon (c)
5 Ed Slater
6 Jamie Gibson
7 Julian Salvi
8 Thomas Waldrom
16 George Chuter
17 Boris Stankovich
18 Fraser Balmain
19 Sebastian de Chaves
20 Jordan Crane
21 Pablo Matera
22 Miles Benjamin
23 Sam Harrison

Referee: Andrew Small
TV: BT Sports 1HD, Sunday 1:00pm (KO 2:00pm).  This game will be free to view on all platforms and remember the clocks go back on Saturday night, so don’t be late!

Wednesday, 23 October 2013

Teenage Tiziano Signs For T'Knights

Leicester Tigers 19 year old Italian prop Tiziano Pasquali has signed for Doncaster Knights on a short term loan deal.  The Knights have suffered a spate of injuries in the front row and Pasquali will provide cover on both sides of the scrum.

His debut in Men's Rugby came on Saturday when he replaced Colin Phillips at Tighthead for the final 25 minutes in their win against Loughborough Students at Castle Park.

Pasquali made his first start for the Tigers Extra Firsts in their recent win away to Worcester and will now look to push on and establish himself in promotion favourites Doncaster's front row.  Last season Kieran Brookes went on loan to Doncaster as they tried to stay in the Championship, hopefully this spell will work out better for all concerned.

Monday, 21 October 2013

Lamb ruled out until Christmas

Ryan Lamb's broken hand is worse than first feared and will keep him out of action until mid-December; to rub further salt in the wound the RFU have announced that he won't serve his 1 week ban until the injury is healed.

Lamb got sent off for punching Gloucester number 10 Jonny Bentley in an A League match back in September.

According to the RFU's written judgement, released on-line, Lamb will be out injured until the 17th December, meaning his injury will have ruled him out of 11 games.  His suspension will be served in the game away to Saracens on 21st December, or whenever he is fit.

Owen Williams is set to be the main beneficiary of Lamb's actions as he now has a clear run at the fly half jersey whilst Toby Flood is away with England.

Full Written Judgement Here

Sunday, 20 October 2013

ABC More Thoughts from the Week's action

A: Tigers Traveling Record Must Improve

Let’s not beat around the bush Tigers record away from home in Europe is shocking.  Since that famous win away to Munster in 2007 we have won only 6 of 24 games outside of Leicester.   

Exclude the games in Italy and it is played 19 Won 1 Drawn 2 Lost 16.  All the wins and draws have come in Wales; beating Llanelli in 2011, drawing with Cardiff in the 2009 semi final (winning on penalties) and drawing with Ospreys last year. 

Before this run our record away from home in Europe was Played 36 Won 23 Drawn 1 Lost 12.

Geoff Parling talks about getting angry with our record in Europe.  This is the place to start.  Win in Montpellier and get that monkey off our backs.

B: England's Call Could Leave Tigers Short

Stuart Lancaster’s yearly bondage camp is due this week and that means that Tigers could be without 5 more key players for the trip to Wasps.

Tom Youngs, Dan Cole and Geoff Parling are sure to miss out but Toby Flood and Ben Youngs’s presence is more open to question.

With Marcos Ayerza apparently back in the country and all our locks and hookers fit we are not going to miss the forwards any more than we have to but the backs are now becoming perilously thin.  Now Goneva is out I make our fit options: Mele, Harrison, Williams, Bowden, Hepetema, Scully, Benjamin, Thompstone and Morris.   6-2 split this weekend by any chance?

C: New Boy Matera could be new Moody

Sunday should be the first chance that Tigers fans get to see Pablo Matera in a scarlet, green and white shirt.   Built like a young Lewis Moody the Argentinean flanker should well capable of playing in both flank positions and providing some relief for the injured Tom Croft and some competition for Julian Salvi.

Hopefully it can also inspire some of our academy boys what a 20 year old can do if they really put their minds to it.

Matera was an ever present for Argentina in the Rugby Championship after making his full test debut against Chile in May. 

Saturday, 19 October 2013

Thompstone on Time as Tigers tackle Treviso

A last play try from Adam Thompstone kept Tigers' European hopes alive as it secured the 4 try bonus point; Flood's conversion made the final score 34-3.

The result needs to be put in the context that Treviso finished the last season 7th in the RaboDirect Pro12; this is where Bath finished in the Aviva Premiership.  We would not be moaning if we got a 5 point win against Bath what ever the circumstances.

The performance though was mixed to say the least.

Tigers are never comfortable under lights, this game was moved due to a clash with Leicester City v Huddersfield (won 2-1 if you're interested), and this nasty habit reared its head again.  Treviso were excellent for large parts at spoiling the possession.  The laissez faire approach to the ruck by Pascal Gauzere was taken up with relish by Barbieri, Zanni and Vosawi who were a constant nuisance in and around the break down.

Ed Slater was magnificent, his line and pass for the final try were inch perfect, but he really is a lock in his break down work.  That is not an insult or an attempt to disparage him, he is a smasher not a grabber.

Outside of Slater, often marooned on the wing like our blindside often is, and the effervescent Tom Youngs Tigers carrying game was stilted and ineffective.  Waldrom made several telling interventions but tired, whether it was a lack of match practice or an injury I cannot say.

The back play drew most of the ire from the messageboards, and it was not good, but the ball was slow and stodgy whilst the Trevisian defence was fast and aggressive.  Going wide and deep plays into their hands.

Leicester opened the scores after 16 minutes.  Ben Youngs ran a smart wrap around with Bowden as the pivot to open up the Italian's blindside defence from a midfield scrum.  Youngs kept the move alive but without an offside line the Treviso defence recovered.  Hepetema, an early sub for Goneva, showed some lovely foot work to beat his man before Michele Rizzo sped out of the line to smash Toby Flood late and incur the penalty.

From the restart Berquist kicked straight out so Tigers had another midfield scrum.  A penalty was awarded when Rizzo, again, stood up.  Youngs scented the chance and went quickly, he drew his man and put Niall Morris into space.  McLean was beaten all ends up as he turned his back on the play.  But no!

Pascal Gauzere ruled that Youngs had taken it in front of the mark.  With the aid of my TV recording I can clearly see that he was wrong and that Youngs was indisputably not in front of the mark.  It was not even particularly close.  Perhaps J.P. Lux had had a word?

An harsh call for a forward pass by Toby Flood lost the move from the penalty.

But Tigers were finding their grove if not quit finishing it off.  Ben Youngs kicked intelligently for the corner and Californian winger Blaine Scully showed real desire chasing the kick, putting McLean under pressure.  His clearance kick was long but flat giving Morris excellent counter attacking ball.  His trademark break and off load saw the Tigers forwards stampeding through the center ground.  

Now that is more like it!  Tom Youngs takes it on. Kitchener turns it inside with a basketball pass to Mulipola on the charge.  Quick ball and Flood puts it inside the rush to Ed Slater; he goes inside right again to Waldrom who makes 10 yards.  No ruckers from Treviso means Kitchener can pick and go through the heart.  Botes just about stops the rampaging Salopian on the 5m but refuses to roll away.  Advantage.  Flood wastes it with a nothing chip.

Fair play to Gauzere he had no messing around and produced the yellow card straight away.  Tigers now completely in the ascendency and playing beautifully.  They take the points 6-0.  Not aggressive enough or showing the opposition correct respect?

Treviso weathered the storm well though as they played possession for the bulk of the 10 minutes.  The rain was now getting more persistent and Tigers hands started to falter.  Hepetema juggled but gathered then Geoff Parling fumbled an easy catch.  From the scrum Salvi then Waldrom slipped off tackles on Bob Barbieri.  He fed Manoa Vosawi for an eye catching break but wasted it with an atrocious pass to no one in particular

A succession of penalties from Treviso marched them back to their own goal line.  They dealt with the first maul well enough but again did not roll away and Tigers did not need asking a third time.  A well constructed maul saw Thomas "the Tank" barrel his way over for a 13-0 half time lead.

Tigers were back on form at the start of the second half, a trademark Ben Youngs break opened up the play and Ed Slater took advantage of an extremely loose definition of tackler not held to snatch a huge gain.  Traditional Tigers multi phase rugby saw the ball travel to within 5 yards of the try line where Thompstone was tackled into touch.

It wasn't over though.  Kitchener pilfered the Italian lineout.  Waldrom Went through the heart of the ruck and wriggled and squirmed and crawled and finally made it over the line.  Ruled as a double movement I have to question at what point was he held?  To my eye the first crawl is clearly unheld then he scores the try with his permitted single movement.  Little did we know at the same time they were also discussing this at Wembley.  Waldrom's was a darker shade but both decisions were gray rather than black or white.

The frustrations began to set in.  A poor pass from Ben Youngs.  A penalty against Cole.  A penalty against Tom Youngs.  13-3; a penalty for Botes the South African-Italian scrum half.

Flood passes to no one then cross kicks to no one in particular.  The clock is ticking away and the crowd is becoming agitated.  Another Flood pass goes to floor then bounces over Scully's head.  The rain is pouring down.

Flood is drifting away from Youngs, the passes have to be longer and loopier.  The Treviso defence is driving, pushing, harrying the Tigers into mistakes.  Flood and Hepetema mistime a simple switch.

The tide turns as Gauzere first bins the captain Antonio Pavanello for not rolling away then 40 seconds later Tongan-Japanese winger Christian Loamanu for a swinging arm high tackle on Blaine Scully.  Down to 13 men the Italian barricades finally are breached.

Another driving maul, this time with Tom Youngs in the driving seat.  Louis Deacon and David Mele are now on.  Deacon's muscularity is immediately to the fore as the maul surges over the line for a Tom Youngs try.

It was not all our own way though as Mele tried to use Thompstone on the blidside rather than let the maul do its work.  Now it was Bowden's turn to have a few moments.  A poor pass in the vicinity of everyone but to the hands of no one was followed up with a fairly sloppy dropped catch when quick hands could have seen a try.  Hepetema then throws a pass behind Thompstone's feet and into touch.

The need for 4 tries was seeing the players choke. The crowd were getting on to them and they were trying to force it too wide too early.  Forwards through the middle, draw them in would have been far far more effective.  Ed Slater slashes through a few week tackles but Salvi knocks it on at the ruck.  AHHHHHHH.

Dan Cole snaffles a turnover in midfield and Tigers break through.  Swift inter passing from Crane, Morris, Bowden and Thompstone gets us to within 5 of the line on the Crumbie touchline.  Deacon straightens a Flood pass into the shadow of the posts and we have advantage for an Italian offside.  It goes back left to Bowden who is gang tackled.

Mele takes the tap penalty.  Simple hands, take pass, draw man, pass from Flood and Crane puts Scully into the corner.  A delightful delay from Crane makes sure of the try.

Back to 15 men and Treviso are back to frustrating us.  It's panic stations and it isn't working.  Treviso are building possession in the 22, it's not the score we are bothered about it's the time.  5 minutes left.  Then 4.  Then 3.  We are still in our own 22.  

79 minutes up and we win a penalty from a scrum in our own 22.  It's now or never boys.  No mistakes.

Parling wins the lineout and Bowden takes it up.  Briggs and Mulipola prominent with their carries.  Dan Cole picks and goes.  It attracted the defenders, Slater and Thompstone slip wide and Bowden fires the pass wide to find Slater with the 2 on 1.  Slater does the simple thing that many make look so hard by holding his line, holding his nerve and passing as late as possible.

It is no easy finish for Thompstone as he steps off his left foot towards the posts beating one, beating two, beating three.  Relief.  He's got it.  Try number 4, worth 5 points.  Leaves us with 6 points in the group.

So it wasn't vintage Leicester but we'd be pretty chuffed stopping Bath at source and putting 4 past them so let's not get ahead of ourselves.  Work to do but job done.

Thursday, 17 October 2013

Toby's Tigers Ton Up

Tigers make three changes to the starting line up that last Friday conceded defeat to Ulster.  In the forwards Graham Kitchener and Thomas Waldrom replace Louis Deacon and Jordan Crane who take their places on the bench; the other change sees Californian winger Blaine Scully recover from injury to oust Miles Benjamin from the wing.  Benjamin was rusty in Belfast after so long out but needs must and he gave a Tigers effort in trying circumstances.  He will be back, he will be better.

The changes see Tigers lose some direct power in the tight exchanges but Kitchener and Waldrom are far more dynamic carriers, with Kitchener's pace also a terrific asset in defence.

Tigers M.I.A. list contains internationals Marcos Ayerza, Tom Croft, Steve Mafi, Pablo Matera, Anthony Allen, Manu Tuilagi, Scott Hamilton and Mat Tait.  8 internationals and 7 of those would be key men in the 23.  The injuries are a staggering as they are varied.  Anthony Allen ruled out with what was essentially a rotting thigh muscle.  Lovely.

Captain Toby Flood will be making his 100 appearance for the clubs since his debut away to Gloucester in 2008.  Logovi'i Mulpola at Loosehead makes his 50 appearance for the First XV whilst Thomas Waldrom makes his 75th start in the back row.

Treviso come to Welford Road for the 4th time in 6 seasons.  This ties the Ospreys for the most common group stage opponent in the history of Heineken Cup.  An ample demonstration of both the stagnation of European Rugby thanks to "Regions" and the skewed system used to draw the pool stages which makes similar draws more likely.

Last season we beat Treviso in both games, as we have every Italian opponent in the Heineken Cup, but only by 8 points at home and by the slimmest margin, a lone point, away.  Treviso have beaten both Bath and Wasps in the past; so whilst we might remember them from their late noughties slump historically they have always been a competitive side.  At some point we will lose to them and the gloating from the London press will be deafening.  Lets make sure it is not now!

Treviso have recalled summer signing Mat Berquist at Fly Half.  Berquist hit the heights in Dan Carter's absence for the Canterbury Crusaders in 2011 but has failed to hit those standards since his transfer to Europe.  First he spent a year, mostly injured, in Dublin with Leinster then he tried the delights of the Top 14 with Biarritz.

Italy seems to be agreeing with him more as he has two tries in two starts and steered the Leoni to victory over Munster in September. 

On the wing dope smoking Japanese-Tongan winger-cum-flanker Christian Loamanu has been a power packed addition to the side since his 2012 switch from Toulon.  

The real strength of this Treviso side though is in the back five of the scrum.  Pavenello is a fantastic captain, though he can be accused of having a touch of the Borthwicks, whilst number 7 Alessandro Zanni is one of Europe's finest flankers.  At the forefront of Italy's win against France last year Zanni is not a Neil Back type at 7 but more the continental style ball carrier work horse.  Think Juan Fernandez Lobbe.  Think new Tiger Pablo Matera.

The back row is completed with two imported Italian test players; Manoa Voaswi from Fiji initially burst onto the scene with Overmarch Parma but has settled with Treviso as a yet another physical carrier.  Bob Barbieri is a Canadian Number 8 who was picked up after the incredibly scientific method of an FIR official seeing his name on a Canadian U-19s team sheet and presuming he had some qualification!  A contract in the Super 10, as it was before "regionalisation" of Italian rugby, quickly came and the allure of the 6 Nations secured him for the Azzurri. 

French referee Pascal Gauzere will referee his 4th Tigers game; all 3 previous occasions have also been against Italian sides. 

Leicester Tigers
15 Niall Morris
14 Blaine Scully
13 Vereniki Goneva
12 Dan Bowden
11 Adam Thompstone
10 Toby Flood (c)
9 Ben Youngs
1 Logovi'i Mulipola
2 Tom Youngs
3 Dan Cole
4 Graham Kitchener
5 Geoff Parling
6 Ed Slater
7 Julian Salvi
8 Thomas Waldrom

16 Neil Briggs
17 Boris Stankovich
18 Fraser Balmain
19 Louis Deacon
20 Jordan Crane
21 David Mele
22 Owen Williams
23 Terrence Hepetema

Benetton Treviso
15 Luke McLean
14 Andrea Pratichetti
13 Luca Morisi
12 Alberto Sgarbi
11 Christian Loamanu
10 Mat Berquist
9 Tobias Botes
1 Michele Rizzo
2 Enrico Ceccato
3 Lorenzo Cittadini
4 Antonio Pavanello (c)
5Valerio Bernabo
6 Manoa Vosawai
7 Alessandro Zanni
8 Robert Barbieri

16 Franco Sbaraglini
17 Ignacio Fernandez Rouyet
18 Pedro di Santo
19 Marco Fuser
20 Dean Budd
21 Marco Filippucci
22 Fabio Semenzato
23 James Ambrosini

Referee: Pascal Gauzere
TV: Sky Sports 1 Red Button

Sunday, 13 October 2013

Tigers accept defeat

Tigers opened their European campaign with a defeat to Ulster at Ravenhill.  The final score of 22-16 meant Tigers left the province with a potentially valuable Losing Bonus Point.  With Montpellier winning without a Try Bonus in Treviso that could be the point that wins the group.

But.  But but but.  That attitude is fine in the wash afterwards but at the time to meekly take the loss as "good enough" is simply not the Tigers Way.  We'd have never beaten the Ospreys away in 2006 with that attitude.  We got a home quarter final that year.  We have now had only 1 in the last 7 seasons.  Coincidence?

To get a home quarterfinal you need 5 wins, most years.  To tamely surrender the chance of a vital away win is so so disappointing.  It is no way to act if you are truly trying to win the competition and it disrespects the fans that spent their hard earned money to follow the side.

If you don't know what happened yet an Owen Williams penalty had just got Tigers back within a try of the win.  We got a penalty with the clock ticking into the red.  And we waited.  And we kicked it out, to end the game.  Accepted we couldn't beat Ulster.  Gave up.

Its not that a Losing Bonus Point is a bad result, indeed it is our best from three trips there, but Ulster aren't some unbeatable colossus.  Northampton won there last season.  So could we.

It had started so brightly for the visitors, a great spell of possession and territory deep in the Ulster 22 was  finished off when Dan Bowden's exquisite long pass was collected by a rampaging Logovi'i Mulipola who stormed over the opening try.  Flood converted for a 7-0 lead.

Matters were leveled after a quarter of an hour when Ulster took a page from the Pat Howard play book scoring from a pinpoint cross kick by Paddy Jackosn.  Tommy Bowe, ever the Tigers nemesis, out leaped fellow Irishman Niall Morris for an immaculate reception.  The ginger magician Jackson slotted the conversion.  

Flood put the Tigers ahead after a lineout drive was pulled down but two Jackson penalties saw Ulster in the lead 13-10 at half time.  

The crucial moment in the game came shortly after half time.  Tigers had started the second half like they had the first.  Terrific ball retention and trademark phase play had driven the Tigers up to the 5m line.  Tom Youngs then spotted the overlap in the ragged Ulster defence.  But Paddy Jackson's interception stopped the move dead.

He raced the length to rapturous applause but Poite had spotted he was offside.  On the replay all could see not only was he offside but at no point had he ever got back on side.  This begs the question of what about the yellow card or the penalty try?

There can be no doubt that if Jackson's cheating had not occurred a try would have been scored.

So this crucial moment that could have made the score 20-10 or 13-17 instead ended up with the scores level.  

What made the lack of yellow card even more galling was Poite's decision to sin bin Jordan Crane some 15 minutes later.  The crowd was now riled up after Poite disallowed another try, this time for an obvious forward pass, and Poite was feeling the heat from the fantastically vociferous partisan crowd.

Crane's legs tangled with Pienaar's as he rolled away.  It was not a cynical move, and scarcely deliberate but the crowd, as a Welford Road one would, roared away in disgust anyway.  Poite under severe pressure produced the yellow card.

It was the tipping point as Tigers lost the period 6-0 and this was when Ulster really got away from us.  The second penalty was from a scrum on our own put in.  Missing Jordan Crane and with Deacon just replaced by Kitchener the 7 man Tigers pack was bolstered by Miles Benjamin.  I'm fairly certain this is not a role Benjamin has ever filed before; why?  Well he proceeded to pack down with his shoulder on the lock rather than on the prop, like an utility number 8. 

Even when back to 15 Tigers were now unable to stem the tide of the Ulster attack.  Wave after wave crashed down on the Leicester defence but they held firm, just.  The win seemed inevitable when a final crowd inspired penalty from Poite was slotted by Jackson.

With Owen Williams now on for a disheveled Flood and Mele long on for an out of sorts Ben Youngs Tigers attacked again looking for the losing bonus point at least, at most as it turned out.  From a lineout Williams tried an ambitious 40 yard drop goal which just drifted to kiss the wrong side of the upright.  

An offside in front of the posts but well away from any danger handed Tigers the chance to get within 7 and Williams continued his 100% record from the kicking tee in Tigers colours.

Then the disappointing admission of defeat as a final chance was spurned.

Thursday, 10 October 2013

Tigers name team for Titanic Task

Tigers start their European voyage tomorrow night when they travel to a re-developed Ravenhill to face Ulster.  Tigers fans will need no reminding of the humiliating reverses suffered in the previous two visits to the Northern Irish fortress. 

Tigers make 3 changes to the side that could only draw with Northampton.  Anthony Allen and Blaine Scully are ruled out through injury whilst Geoff Parling has recovered from the rib injury that made him sit out the derby draw.

That means a dream debut for winger Miles Benjamin, 13 months on from the broken neck he suffered in an A League game.  While vastly experienced with Worcester the Birmingham native has never played a Heineken Cup game; his most recent first team start of any kind was against Northampton for Worcester back on May 5th 2012, 17 months ago.

The other change to the backline sees Dan Bowden come into the centres for Anthony Allen.  Bowden was particularly impressive coming off the bench last week, playing a key part of the late late comeback.  Bowden offers more kicking, a wider range of passes and a greater attacking spirit but is less solid defensively and there are question marks over whether he can make the team tick in the same way as Allen.  So often described as the glue in the Tigers midfield will Allen's absence mean we come unstuck or will it unclog the midfield channels?

In the second row Graham Kitchener moves to the bench as British Lion Geoff Parling takes his starting place alongside Louis Deacon.

On the bench Terrence Hepetema is in line for his debut should he come on.  Hepetema is a New Zealand utility back who has spent time with Randwick and the Waratahs in Australia.

Ulster also make 3 changes from their most recent match, an 18-12 victory away to the Ospreys.  Former Northampton player Roger Wilson takes over from Robbie Diack in the backrow whilst Jared Payne and Tommy Bowe start in the back three.

Ulster finished last season top of the table in the Pro 12 before losing out to Leinster in the final and won their Heineken Cup group before losing to Saracens in the Quarter Finals.

Both sides are without their Rugby Championship stars as Ruan Pienaar is only named on the bench for Ulster whilst Tigers trio of Ayerza, Camacho and Matera are missing for personal reasons, injury and being unregistered respectively.  Ayerza is in Argentina with his wife awaiting the birth of their first child, I'm sure we all wish her good luck and to get on with it!

Ulster main missing man is John Afoa.  The New Zealand tighthead is out with a calf injury which will delight Tigers fans as he was a key player in their our last demolition at Ravenhill.

Leicester Tigers
15 Niall Morris
14 Miles Benjamin
13 Vereniki Goneva
12 Dan Bowden
11 Adam Thompstone
10 Toby Flood (c)
9 Ben Youngs
1 Logovi'i Mulipola
2 Tom Youngs
3 Dan Cole
4 Louis Deacon
5 Geoff Parling
6 Ed Slater
7 Julian Salvi
8 Jordan Crane

16 Neil Briggs
17 Boris Stankovich
18 Fraser Balmain
19 Graham Kitchener
20 Thomas Waldrom
21 David Mele
22 Owen Williams
23 Terrence Hepetema

15 Jared Payne
14 Andrew Trimble
13 Darren Cave
12 Luke Marshall
11 Tommy Bowe
10 Paddy Jackson
9 Paul Marshall
1 Tom Court
2 Rory Best
3 Declan Fitzpatrick
4 Johann Muller (c)
5 Dan Tuohy
6 Roger Wilson
7 Chris Henry
8 Nick Williams

16 Rob Herring
17 Callum Black
18 Ricky Lutton
19 Iain Henderson
20 Robbie Diack
21 Ruan Pienaar
22 Stuart Olding
23 Michael Allen

Sunday, 6 October 2013

Terrible Tigers Roar back to Share Spoils

For the vast majority of this match Tigers were second best in almost all aspects.  Out muscled, out thought and out fought the Saints were enjoying a dominant display at Welford Road and with 10 minutes remaining looked set to end Jim Mallinder’s Welford Road hoodoo as they led by 10 points.

But then the Tigers finally woke up.  David Mele and Dan Bowden were introduced from the bench; Tigers first subs coming as late as the 70th minute, and immediately upped the ante.  Bowden put Goneva through a tiny hole in the Saints midfield to burst from halfway to the 22m line.  Courtney Lawes, so often the villain, gave away the penalty and Tigers were back in touch.

The atmosphere even got to the referee who lost his rag with Tigers frustrations at Saints penalty count, 18 Saints penalties to only 7 from Leicester.  Louis Deacon saw yellow for dissent whilst Lawes was binned for failing to roll away.  Back within 7.

A clever kick from Mele gave Saints a 22m restart and Tigers good territory.  More impressive carrying from Bowden and Goneva forced Saints to give away yet more penalties.  To the corner.  A drive.  Yet another penalty.  The Corner again.  This time quickly to Flood; He’s through! No, he’s stopped short.  Mele frantically tap dancing on the forest of Northampton arms.  It’s free now. 

Mele moves laterally attracting the fringe defence.  This is exactly what Austin Healey was demonstrating two weeks ago with Danny Care.  He spots Saints front rower Denman turn his shoulders in and puts Ed Slater through the hole.  The local boy raised in Saints territory.  I can’t think of a better player to score the try.  Flood converts quickly for the drawing conversion.

19-19 is the final score but that wasn’t the end of the game.  As befits two cracking and aggressive sides both wanted the win, not the draw.  Samu Manoa, the giant Californian, blocked Mele’s box kick but Flood was first to react and cleared to Foden.  He countered but strong Tigers pressure forced the Saints back.  Salvi and Crane gang tackled Tom Wood stripping him of the ball and Flood kicked deep into Saints territory.  The inch perfect kick forced Foden to clear to touch. 

From the lineout, one phase and Tigers quickly set for the drop goal.  It’s not the best pass but Flood knocks it on, for once JP Doyle’s partial blindness benefits the Tigers and he misses it.  Another phase and this time it is Mele in full French madness mode with the snap 50m drop kick.  He scuffs it.  But you can’t mark a drop kick nor can it go for a scrum back, so whilst not the best option it was by no means the worst.

From the 22 Saints kick long and Crane runs it back.  With less than a minute on the clock Flood puts in an inch perfect kick to the corner.  All the pressure is on Hartley now.  Will he bottle it like usual?  He’s in front of the sedate GNC stand rather than the Crumbie baying for his blood.  He twitches.  He dummies.  He’s bottled it again!

Deacon and Lawes return from the bin for the final confrontation.  Tigers take the scrum.  It’s a clean engagement.  The drive is on.  Saints are going backwards at a rate of knots and surely it’s only a matter of time until Doyle puts his arm out or goes straight under the posts?

But no!  Dickson gambles and takes the ball from the back of the scrum.  Doyle plays on and now its Tigers scrambling back under pressure.  Thompstone, Flood and Bowden do incredibly well to keep Dickson penned into the touchline as if he gets into midfield its game over.  He passes to winger Elliot whose kick forward is into touch and finishes the match.

Back to the scrum a second though and Tigers will feel hard done by.  If Crane gets his foot back to it before Dickson does there is no way the referee would rule he has kicked it back in, so like Schrödinger’s Cat the ball is both in the scrum and out of it.  For me Mele has to be closer to the 8 offering some protection and potentially looking for the pushover try too. 

Back to the beginning and as the match started Northampton set their stall out immediately with Sam Dickinson taking Blaine Scully out with a swinging arm to the throat.  Scully needed extensive treatment but was able to carry on after passing the pitch-side concussion tests. 

Northampton’s indiscipline is best summed up by this stat, every single one of their starting pack conceded a penalty.  I repeat from earlier Northampton gave away a massive 18 penalties during the game to Leicester’s 7. 

Their first two were in quick succession at a scrum then ruck to give Flood the chance to open the scoring but his long range attempt went wide.  It was Northampton who bossed the first half with their cavalier attitude in the ruck not only slowing down any possession Leicester did manage but securing good ball on their own too.

Only the scrum and Saints indiscipline allowed Tigers to keep a foothold in the first half.

Myler was perfect with the boot to punish the few penalties Tigers did allow and put the Saints 3-0 nil up.

Luther Burrell saw yellow for a spear tackle and Flood was on hand to level up the scores after a quarter of an hour.  Tigers failed to take advantage of the extra man though as the 10 minute period ended with Saints up 6-3 after Julian Salvi entered the ruck from the side.

Saints were dominating the collisions and the territory as they pushed further ahead when catching Jordan Crane holding on around half way.

A period of greater fluency for the Tigers was rewarded when the Saints were again pinged for not rolling away from the tackle.  Mulipola was particularly prominent in a series of powerful surges.  Flood’s penalty brought the Tigers back within 3.

The only clear try scoring chance of the half came right as it ended.  From a Northampton lineout the ball was spun wide to Ben Foden who chipped through for the mega-bucks George North to chase.  North looked to have won the race for the ball but literally let it slip through his fingers.  Perhaps in future he should visualise a wad of £50 notes instead as he’d never let those out of his grasp.

The try was coming as Northampton upped the pace at the begging of the second half.  They were powerful and precise as they swept through the Tigers half in over ten phases.  This summer’s other big money mover Alex Corbiseiro was the man to finally drive over the line.  Some consolation for his torrid day in the scrum. 

And it should have been more for a now rampant Saints.  Despite Flood’s penalty after another Saints offence in the ruck Northampton were completely on top in open play, driving the Tigers back at every collision.  Sam Dickinson, the bald headed number eight, powered over the line but Ben Youngs and Blaine Scully’s limpet like defence saved the Tigers as he was held up.  Lee Dickson fed at the scrum and the pressure was relieved.

In many ways that was the end of Northampton’s chances as Tigers grew into the final twenty minutes gaining more and more chances.  First Flood danced through a hole only for Jordan Crane’s pass to drift into touch.  Then Ed Slater fumbled the ball only 5 yards out after some lovely hands from Crane and Kitchener.  Goneva dropped an unsympathetic pass from Ben Youngs too as the pressure on the Saints began to mount.

A controversial scrum penalty, which did not tally with the previous interpretations of standing up, looked to have put Northampton clear at 10 points up with 15 minutes to go but as we all know, beware of the injured Tiger!

Friday, 4 October 2013

Cockerill faces Nemesis Northampton and signs new 5 Year Deal

Tigers face Northampton for the 229th time tomorrow as they aim to extend their 8 game winning run in the fixture.  This is the second longest winning streak for Tigers in the fixture,only beaten by the 10 game run between 1983 and 1990.  

Northampton are looking for their first victory at Welford Road since the Stephen Myler inspired victory in their most recent relegation year of 2007.  Jim Mallinder makes two changes to the side that slaughtered Sale as Samu Manoa replaces the injured Christian Day and Coventry native Tom Wood replaces the arm breaker Calum Clarke at blindside wanker, I mean flanker.  A new name to many will be number 8 Sam Dickinson signed from Rotherham last summer.  The burly northerner has been a revalation after missing  most of last season with a broken arm.

Richard Cockerill may still be banned after the hate campaign waged by bitter rival Dorian West and the Northampton e-mail warriors but his face will be in abundance as Tigers will be giving out free masks bearing the likeness of the Dear Leader.  This week Cockerill signed a new 5 year contract which looks set to make him the club's longest serving coach in the Professional era.

Whatever the RFU and their stuffed shirts in London might think to me Cockerill embodies all the best characteristics of game of Rugby, the city of Leicester and the Leicester Football Club.  He is passionate and honest to a fault.  He works long, hard days and would never ask someone to do something he wasn't prepared to do himself.  He worked way his way up to the very top of his profession after leaving school at 16 with no qualifications.  He had no silver spoons or helping hands, everything he has achieved he has worked at and earned for himself.  When he makes a mistake he doesn't have an old school chum to defend him in his Telegraph column.

And far more importantly he knows his Rugby.

Cockerill makes only one change from the side that struggled to beat to Exeter last weekend as Graham Kitchener replaces Geoff Parling.  Parling left the field injured last week but it is unknown if the injury is still bothering him or whether it is a simple case of rotation.  After his outstanding performance in last year's Premiership Final Cockerill may have simply opted for Kitchener.  If he can score a try or do another try saving tackle it will have been a great call.

On the bench Thomas Waldrom replaces Jamie Gibson after his run out for the A team on Monday night.  Owen Williams continues in the place of bad boy Ryan Lamb.

Last week's Man of the Match Vereniki Goneva will be making his 20th start for the club so will earn his players tie.

Saturday's referee will be John Paul Doyle.  JP as he is known is a Dubliner who relocated to London for university and is now a mainstay of English refereeing.  Doyle has refereed 13 Tigers game with 11 victories to only two defeats.  Doyle refereed the LV Cup Final between the two sides in 2012, so will need to reminding to watch out for dirty Saints play in and around the ruck.

The game is live on BT Sports 1HD, coverage starts at 3PM for a 3.15 K.O. 

Leicester Tigers (v Northampton Saints, Welford Road, Saturday 3.15pm)
15 Niall Morris
14 Blaine Scully
13 Vereniki Goneva
12 Anthony Allen
11 Adam Thompstone
10 Toby Flood (c)
9 Ben Youngs
1 Logovi'i Mulipola
2 Tom Youngs
3 Dan Cole
4 Louis Deacon
5 Graham Kitchener
6 Ed Slater
7 Julian Salvi
8 Jordan Crane

16 Neil Briggs
17 Boris Stankovich
18 Fraser Balmain
19 Geoff Parling
20 Thomas Waldrom
21 David Mele
22 Owen Williams
23 Dan Bowden

Northampton Saints
15 Ben Foden
14 Jamie Elliott
13 George Pisi
12 Luther Burrell
11 George North
10 Stephen Myler
9 Lee Dickson
1 Alex Corbisiero
2 Dylan Hartley (c)
3 Tom Mercey
4 Samu Manoa
5 Courtney Lawes
6 Tom Wood
7 Phil Dowson
8 Sam Dickinson

16 Mike Haywood
17 Alex Waller
18 Gareth Denman
19 G J Van Velze
20 Calum Clark
21 Kahn Fotuali'i
22 James Wilson
23 Ken Pisi 

Leicester Kit:

Northampton Kit:

Thursday, 3 October 2013

Tigers reveal Squad for European Assault

Tigers today have revealed their squad for the upcoming European games.  Only long term injury victim Tom Croft is omitted giving hope to Tigers fans that the likes of Steve Mafi, Mat Tait, Rob Hawkins and Manu Tuilagi are closer to fitness than first hoped. 

Tigers include youngsters Scott Steele, Owen Williams, Fraser Balmain and Tom Bristow but there is no place for the likes of Tom Price or Henry Purdy.

Tigers are entitled to nominate a further 2 players during the Pool Stages in place of a player in the original 38 man squad, one of whom must be a front rower.  If Tigers reach the knock out stages they will be allowed to register 3 more players, one of whom must be a front rower.

European Squad:

Marcos Ayerza
Dan Cole
Boris Stankovich
Logovi'i Mulipola
Tom Bristow
Fraser Balmain

Tom Youngs
Neil Briggs 
Rob Hawkins
George Chuter

Louis Deacon
Geoff Parling 
Ed Slater
Graham Kitchener
Sebastian De Chaves

Steve Mafi
Jordan Crane
Julian Salvi
Thomas Waldrom
Jamie Gibson

Scrum Halfs:
Ben Youngs
David Mele
Sam Harrison
Scott Steele

Fly Halfs:
Toby Flood
Owen Williams
Ryan Lamb

Anthony Allen
Manu Tuilagi
Dan Bowden
Matt Smith

Wings & Full Backs:
Vereniki Goneva
Niall Morris
Adam Thompstone
Mat Tait
Miles Benjamin
Blaine Scully
Scott Hamilton