After a long break for the Six Nations, Premiership Rugby finally returns to Welford Road this Friday night as Tigers welcome Gloucester for a 7.45pm kick off.  With the last league game in January this is a perfect time to remind everyone of where they stand.

Tigers are in 6th place in the table, with a record of played 12, won 7, lost 5.  The top 4 qualify for the end of year play offs where the “league” title is decided, and the top two sides get a crucial home advantage in the semi-finals. Tigers are 3 points behind Saracens in 4th, and 4 points behind Quins in 2nd. All the sides in play off contention have the same winning and losing record, with bonus points the difference at the moment.

There are six games remaining.  Tigers face Gloucester at home (9th in the table), Newcastle away (10th), Northampton away (1st), Bristol at home (8th), Sale away (7th) and finally Exeter at home (5th).  Clearly facing the bottom four sides means Tigers could scarcely have asked for an easier run in, and can be realistic going into the break telling themselves that the reason we sit slightly outside the top 4 is that we’ve got a lot of the toughest games out of the way.

It is perhaps telling that the top 3 sides all still have Champions Saracens to come, whilst Exeter & Tigers in 5th and 6th respectively have already played them twice.  The teams are evenly matched and it’s unlikely that anyone runs away with it from here.  Tigers will need to win 4 games, and possibly 5 given the rate we have been winning bonus points, to make the play offs.

The pressure is now on to win those games & climb the table. It is very likely that getting into the play offs will go down to the final game of the season against Exeter.

Unfortunately, pressure has not been Tigers best friend this season. Last Friday, Tigers travelled to Gloucester for the final of the Premiership Rugby Cup (a sort of cross between cricket’s One Day Trophy as it is played without the internationals & football’s League Cup as you do want to win it, but it is very much third place in the pecking order). As is perhaps obvious from putting this in the 6th paragraph of the piece and negging the whole tournament, we did not win on Friday.  Due to the clashes with the Six Nations & tournament rules making a further four starters ineligible it was not Tigers strongest team. But it was a capable & experienced line up that promptly played no rugby & shit the bed under the mildest of Gloucester of attacks. Nor is it the first time we have had a spell of 20 minutes losing the plot, and 60 minutes of trying nothing.

I sometimes think Enzo Maresca is only interested in the aesthetics of Leicester City’s game play & unconcerned with the formalities of defending & winning. No one can accuse Dan McKellar’s side of prizing aesthetics, as the team has regressed into a very limited form of territorial and close carrying tactics. We’re told repeatedly this is “Tigers DNA”, though I wonder what Les Cusworth or Sam Vesty would make of that.

Montoya Leicester Tigers

Rugby is a game of bullying, domination and impetus; so prizing forwards who do those things is natural, and we will undoubtedly be more successful with Montoya, Wiese, Martin & Chessum coming into the pack to do the bullying, dominating & impelling. But often your forwards draw a stalemate with their opponents & you need something tricky to break the deadlock, or to surprise a team and get them off kilter early in the game. We sadly lacked the will or nous to try this last weekend.

On Friday night a bonus point win will see Tigers go second in the table, albeit only temporarily as either Quins or Saracens must over take us on Saturday when they face each other. Given the ground we have to make up, and the realistic likelihood of winning an away semi-final, it is also absolutely crucial that we win & win with that bonus point.

Tigers fans getting to the ground early can treat themselves to a free drink, apparently courtesy of players, by visiting the Final Whistle bar pre-match from 5.30pm and a big crowd is due.  Whatever happens it is good to have the league back.

Tickets are still available for this evenings game. Buy via


Words by Stuart Keene.

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