While the Rugby World Cup may have drawn to a close, we’ve got the Aviva Premiership 2015/16 season to occupy us now and Leicester Tigers will be hoping to build on what was, by their standards, perhaps a disappointing season last season.
Anyway, it all got us to thinking about Tigers over the years and from this we have picked our greatest Tigers XV.
However, there are rules. We must have seen them play at Welford Road, which precludes any players prior to 1994. So whilst if we’d been a little older you would have expected to see heroes of yesteryear such as Peter Wheeler, Les Cusworth, Paul Dodge or Clive Woodward, they cannot be included in the interests of fairness.
Oh and they will wear letters. That’s just the traditional Tigers way.
O. Geordan Murphy
The Irish international and current backs coach came over as a fresh faced teenager and remained a mainstay of the team for the entirety of his professional career. Blessed with outstanding vision and skills that would have rivalled anyone in the world on his day, Murphy is a worthy selection at full back.
N. Alesana Tuilagi
One of six Tuilagi brothers to have represented the club, the Samoan bulldozing wing was almost an unstoppable force on his day with the ability to run straight through helpless defenders. His performance in the 2007 Premiership Final, scoring two tries in a comprehensive 44-16 win over Gloucester, will still give Gloucester’s defence nightmares to this day.
M. Manu Tuilagi
Becoming the second Tuilagi brother to make this team, Manu gets the nod at outside centre. Both Tigers and England have missed Tuilagi’s pace and power during his recent spell out injured. Having established himself in the Tigers side as a teenager, Tuilagi became a mainstay in what had been something of a problem position over the years.
L. Pat Howard
A magician with the ball in his hands. The Australian international joined from the ACT Brumbies in 1998 and won the league title in each of his three seasons with the club along with the Heineken Cup crown in 2001 in his last appearance for the club. He had the ability to unlock defences with an outstanding skill set and eagle eyed vision. He would later return to the club as head coach, winning a further Premiership title.
K. Rory Underwood
A club stalwart on the wing from 1983 through to 1997, the RAF fighter pilot was a try machine for both the Tigers and England. His searing pace would leave defenders clutching at thin air and made him on his day one of the best wingers in world rugby.
J. Joel Stransky
Having landed the extra time drop goal that handed South Africa their historic Rugby World Cup triumph of 1995, Tigers’ signing of Stransky was a real coup in 1997. His goal kicking was second to none and he controlled the game from the fly half position with a cool air of leadership.
I. Austin Healey
Healey played in many different positions for both Tigers and England, but scrum half always seemed his most natural position. One of the most complete and skilful footballers to have ever played for the club, it was his break that led to Leon Lloyd’s winning try in the Tigers’ much celebrated Heineken Cup triumph of 2001.
A. Marcos Ayerza
Arguably the best loosehead prop in the world today, the Argentina international has rarely if ever been dominated since joining the Tigers from amateur Argentinian side Newmans in 2006. A colossus in the scrum, Ayerza was the recent recipient of a well-earned testimonial match at Welford Road between his club and his country.
B. Richard Cockerill.
Tigers’ current Director of Rugby first made his mark for the club as a snarly all action menace of a hooker, making up the B of the famed ABC club. He won five league titles and two Heineken Cups as a player and has added three more as Director of Rugby with the club.
C. Dan Cole
A difficult selection at tighthead prop with some stiff competition from the likes of Darren Garforth and Martin Castrogiovanni, but current Tigers and England prop Cole gets the nod for his consistently solid scrummaging.
D. Martin Johnson (captain)
One of the greatest ever. He captained Tigers to all there was to win in the Northern Hemisphere, became the only man to captain the British and Irish Lions twice (including a series win over South Africa in 1997) and of course lifted the Webb Ellis Trophy as England captain in the 2003 Rugby World Cup Final in Sydney. If anyone can recall a poor game that Johnno ever had, please let us know.
E. Ben Kay
A solid and dependable lock forward for the Tigers, England and the Lions. He played for the Tigers for over a decade and rarely put a foot wrong in that time, becoming one of the leading line out masters in the game.
F. Lewis Moody
You got the feeling that Moody would have been prepared to run through brick walls for the club. He would frequently be the first under restarts, would frequently be found securing the ball where the boots were flying and would usually be the first to the tackle and the breakdown.
G. Dean Richards
A firm crowd favourite in his playing days, when the chant of “Deano, Deano…” used to ring round Welford Road. He won the inaugural league title with the club in 1988, and again as captain in 1995. He would later be promoted to Director of Rugby of the club and won a further four league title and led the club to its two Heineken Cup triumphs.
H. Neil Back
Another player who never seemed to have a bad game, which in a Tigers career that spanned fifteen years is some feat. He played right on the edges of the law in the breakdown to secure ball for Leicester and slow down that of the opposition. Mysteriously blamed by Munster fans for Peter Stringer inadvertently feeding the ball to the Leicester side of the scrum in the 2002 Heineken Cup final.
Post by Iain Morton