Jamie Hosie caught up with Leicester Tigers second row Geoff Parling at the Aviva Premiership launch this morning – here’s what the England and Lions lock had to say.
JH: It’s been a busy off season at the Tigers, with lots of new faces arriving – how are they all settling in to the squad?
GP: We’ve got a lot of new guys – four guys from Treviso, all good players and good boys. It’s definitely helped them that they’ve all come from the same club, so that’s helped their families to settle in. Freddie Burns – he’s come in and kept his head down, and just got on with whatever he’s told. Seremai Bai is a good guy, not only when he plays and trains, but he’s got a wealth of experience.
It’s been a good environment so far. Brad Thorn’s going to come in soon as well – more experience to add to the group. We’ve had good, positive training but obviously at the moment it’s just pre season, so we want to get into the season and start playing games.
JH: Are you excited about the addition of Thorn, a man with a huge amount of experience – not to mention a World Cup winners’ medal – who plays in the same position as you?
GP: It’s someone good to learn from, who’s been in lots of different environments. You’d think that hopefully he’s got something he can pass on not only to the younger lads, but to someone like myself and the other forwards as well.
JH: Over the past few seasons, the Tigers have developed a tendency to start the season slowly and then pick up the pace after the New Year. What do you put that down to?
GP: I’d rather it was that than the other way! I don’t know really. You’re probably right, although last season it was the mid point in the season that was a bit frustrating for us. To be honest if I knew the answer, we’d have put it right already!
JH: It’s not only the Tigers that have brought in lots of new faces this season – there’s been extensive recruitment across the board in the Premiership. We say this every year at this stage, but do you expect it to be the tightest competition yet?
GP: I do think the league, certainly over the last few years, has got to the place where on the day any team can challenge any other team. If you look at it last year, with the mid-table teams, there were some tight battles pushing for the Heineken Cup places and everyone’s fighting for that top four. Whether it’s getting better in terms of the quality, I don’t know, but every game’s difficult. It’s not like some leagues where you’re guaranteed a win some games – which really takes it out of you.
JH: That said, it has been the same top four for the last three seasons. Bath came so close last season – do you think they’ll be the closest challengers again this year, or will the likes of Gloucester and Wasps step up?
GP: Bath will certainly be there or thereabouts, Gloucester have certainly recruited well, as you said, Wasps are playing in the Heineken Cup [European Rugby Champions Cup] now so that’s a nice bit of momentum for them – we’ll have to see. Wait until the first, maybe, six games are done and then we’ll have a better idea of who’s going to do what.
JH: Final thing – another year, another tough European draw for the Tigers. When that draw happens and you see yourself coming out in the same group as Toulon, Ulster and the Scarlets, are you happy that you’re going to be facing these high calibre teams, or do you wish you’d maybe been given a bit of an easier ride?
GP: As a player you want to play against the best and challenge yourself against the best teams, but with long term in mind, if there is an easier opposition you’d rather play them to save your legs for later in the season. We’ve probably underperformed a bit in that competition, but if we want to do better then we’ve got to start beating the best teams – so it is what it is.
It’s been streamlined this year, so the quality has probably just gone up a notch again. People talk about easy and hard groups, but there’s not really going to be any easy games in the competition.
Photo by: Patrick Khachfe / Onside Images