Friday, 3 May 2013

500 Club Leicester Welcome Back New Lions and Old Tigers

In what will be Tigers 500th game in the league Director of Rugby Richard Cockerill has selected all 6 players named for this summer's British Lions tour in his matchday squad.  Manu Tuilagi, Ben Youngs, Tom Youngs, Geoff Parling and Tom Croft all start whilst Dan Cole is rested ahead of the play offs.

Tigers first game in the new league structure was at home to Bath on September 12th 1987; tries from Jez Harris, Les Cusworth and Colin Dexter secured Tigers their maiden league victory winning 24-13.  Famous names like John Wells, Simon Povoas, Dusty Hare, Paul Dodge, Steve Kenney and Barry Evans were all part of that team that went on to win the first of Tigers 9 English Championships. 

498 games and 25 years later Tigers have a new generation of heroes gracing the Welford Road turf hoping to emulate the team of 1987/88 and bring home the title for a record 10th time.  Geordan Murphy veteran of 7 of those titles is restored to the side at full back and as captain; the swashbuckling Irish talisman has not revealed his plans for next season so this could be a farewell appearance at his adopted home.

He is joined in the back three by fellow Irishman Niall Morris, surely hoping to earn a test cap this summer as his native land tour North America, and the Flying Fijian maverick Vereniki Goneva, who's early season form lighted up Welford Road only to fall foul of injury against Toulouse in January then struggle to regain his place due to the form of Adam Thompstone.  A classic case of Cockerill man management has seen him tell the press how Thompstone must be in the England team for this summer then promptly drop him!

In the centres British Lion Manu Tuilagi is joined by stalwart team mate Anthony Allen, and conducting the orchestra of rugby prowess around them are Toby Flood at fly half and another Lion Ben Youngs.  The Awesome Foursome suffered their first ever domestic defeat last time out at Bath so will be looking to unleash their full talents on London Irish this Saturday.

The pack sees three changes to the one that faced our old foes Bath two weeks ago as Steve Mafi, Dan Cole and Thomas Waldrom switch the bench as Graham Kitchener, Martin Castrogiovanni and Jordan Crane step in.  The press report that Castro's move to Toulon is a done deal so this will be his last start at Welford Road 7 years and 146 games after his debut against Sale.

That means that Logovi'i Mulipola, Tom Youngs and Geoff Parling continue in the engine room of the tight room whilst Tom Croft and Julian Salvi maintain their places in the back row.  Croft this week became only the 10th Tiger to be named on a second Lions tour in a 110 years, which just emphasis what a remarkable player we are lucky enough to watch every week.

London Irish Head Coach Brian Smith, who played 15 times for Tigers in 1991, has this week busied himself with the appointment of inexperienced ref Luke Pearce saying that he doesn't want to "victims of a referee's development" and that Pearce's biggest challenge is "making sure the home supporters do not influence their decision-making" .  Pearce's only previous Tigers game was the reverse fixture back in December when he awarded Tigers two penalties tries in a 31-9 victory; though I'm sure that has nothing to do with Smith's remarks.

As usual this is where I will again say that I don't think it is a good idea to appoint the same referee to both fixtures between two clubs in a season, especially when one or both sides viewed the original match as controversial.  This is the second time this has happened in two weeks and I'm worried that somewhere someone thinks this is a wizzo smart idea rather than an accident waiting to happen.  Referee's neutrality is paramount and having the suggestion that the previous game is preying on their mind, as Smith has also done this week, is a needless obstacle the RFU can easily avoid.  

Luke Pearce is no stranger to controversy himself though, 3 seasons ago he was assaulted by a Coventry fan after awarding Moseley a third penalty try 8 minutes into injury time to seal a 28-25 win.  He was also the referee that prematurely ended the London Welsh v Saracens match this season when a scrum had collapsed and Welsh were camped on the Sarries try line looking for the push over try. 

Tigers bound Jamie Gibson has been recalled to the Irish starting line up to face his new employers and is joined by the departing Jonathan Joseph, Matt Garvey ( both Bath), Alex Corbisiero (Northampton) and Scott Lawson (Newcastle).  Like Bath two weeks ago the Exiles have opted for a 6-2 split between forwards and backs as only Shane Geraghty and Wasps bound Welsh scrum half Jack Moates are backline replacements.  Former Tigers favourite George Skivington captains from lock.

15 Geordan Murphy (c)
14 Niall Morris
13 Manu Tuilagi
12 Anthony Allen
11 Vereniki Goneva
10 Toby Flood
9 Ben Youngs
1 Logovi'i Mulipola
2 Tom Youngs
3 Martin Castrogiovanni
4 Graham Kitchener
5 Geoff Parling
6 Tom Croft
7 Julian Salvi
8 Jordan Crane

16 Rob Hawkins
17 Fraser Balmain
18 Dan Cole
19 Steve Mafi
20 Thomas Waldrom
21 Sam Harrison
22 George Ford
23 Mathew Tait

London Irish
15 Tom Homer

14 Topsy Ojo
13 Jonathan Joseph
12 Guy Armitage
11 Marland Yarde
10 Ian Humphreys
9 Darren Allinson
1 Alex Corbisiero
2 Scott Lawson
3 Halani Aulika
4 George Skivington (c)
5 Bryn Evans
6 Matt Garvey
7 Jamie Gibson
8 Ofisa Treviranus. Replacements
16 David Paice
17 Jerry Yanuyanutawa
18 Leo Halavatau
19 Kieran Low
20 Jebb Sinclair
21 Declan Danaher
22 Shane Geraghty
23 Jack Moates

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