In their 2017/18 Premiership campaign, Leicester missed out on the top four for the first time in 12 years amid poor recruitment and unfortunate injuries. Matt O’Connor will be hopeful of turning it around, but there are already talks of replacing him…
Last Season: In missing out on the playoffs, Leicester’s forward pack was lightweight and weak – the opposite of what Welford Road is used to seeing. Mark Bakewell’s arrival from Bristol as forwards coach improved this, but the Tigers struggled for consistency throughout the season, eventually finishing 5th.
Strengths: The individuals that makeup Leicester’s starting team are frighteningly strong, especially in the back line. George Ford’s return to Leicester drew many headlines, but it took until the latter stages of the season for the England fly-half to really grow into his role. If Ford can continue these displays of quality, Leicester have all the ingredients to return to the top four.
Weaknesses: Leicester’s problem last season was that they were only a couple of injuries away from pandemonium in the back division. If new recruit Kyle Eastmond and Manu Tuilagi continue to struggle with their fitness as they have done in recent seasons, the Tigers could be left with sub-par players in the midfield, where quality is so important in linking the playmakers and the outer backs. The players also seem to hold great power at Leicester, and if rumours are true that Matt O’Connor is living on borrowed time, watch out for infighting at the traditional powerhouse of English rugby.
Recruitment Rating: Though Leicester have not recruited a star acquisition for their team, their summer business looks shrewd. They have acknowledged last season’s weaknesses and rectified them in bringing in Will Spencer, Dave Denton and Guy Thompson to bolster the forward stocks. That said, the Tigers may regret the losses Harry Thacker and George Mcguigan, two young hookers. They could possibly have strengthened the back-line too. 7.5/10.
Key Man: In an attempt to rectify Tigers’ ball-carrying troubles, Will Spencer has arrived in the Midlands from Worcester. The English second-rower has a combative nature and will add vital ball-carrying power to Leicester’s forward pack. Elsewhere, in his final season at Leicester Matt Toomua will be relied upon to create attacking opportunities for the quality outside him.
Young gun to watch: Another new arrival – Sam Aspland-Robinson – has joined Leicester from Quins after falling down the pecking order at his boyhood club due to the rise of Gabriel Ibitoye. Aspland-Robinson, a former England u20 international, will be looking to fill in a vacancy on Leicester’s right wing.
Prediction: Leicester’s recruitment has been intelligent and looks effective, but there are still doubts surrounding the Tigers’ coaching team. In such a competitive Gallagher Premiership, Leicester will make progress from last season but still finish 5th.
Ins: Guy Thompson, Kyle Eastmond (both Wasps), Will Spencer, David Denton (both Worcester Warriors), James Voss (Jersey Reds), Sam Aspland-Robinson (Harlequins), Jimmy Stevens (Nottingham), Gaston Cortes, Ross McMillan (both Bristol Bears), Owen Hills, Charlie Thacker, Fred Tuilagi, George Worth (all promoted from academy), Campese Ma’afu (Northampton Saints), David Feao (Narbonne).
Outs: Harry Thacker (Bristol Bears), Dom Barrow (Leicester Tigers), Ben Betts (Ealing Trailfinders), Logovi’i Mulipola, George McGuigan (Newcastle Falcons), Joe Maksymiw (Connacht), Nick Malouf (Australia Sevens), Michele Rizzo (Petrarca), Luke Hamilton (Edinburgh), Pat Cilliers (London Irish), Chris Baumann, Kyle Traynor, Dominic Ryan, Tom Brady, Afa Pakalini (all released), George Catchpole (retired).