Guinness Premiership preview: Tigers to top the table?

As we continue our build up to the new Guinness Premiership season, Jon Hobbs evaluates the prospects for Leicester Tigers.

Geordan Murphy

Players In
Anthony Allen (Gloucester)
James Grindall (Newcastle)
Geoff Parling (Newcastle)
Billy Twelvetrees (Bedford)
Jeremy Staunton (London Wasps)
Joe Duffey (Nottingham)
Robbie Harris (Nottingham)

Players Out
Santiago Bonorino (Northampton)
Benjamin Kayser (Stade Francais)
Marco Wentzel (Leeds)
Ben Pienaar (Nottingham)
Ayoola Erinle (Biarritz)
Tom Varndell (London Wasps)
Greig Tonks (Nottingham)
Greg Sammons (Nottingham)
Tom Youngs (Nottingham)
Julien Dupuy (Stade Francais)
Derrick Hougaard (Saracens)
Will Hurrel (Coventry)
Martin Corry (retired)
Ben Herring (retired)

The fact that Leicester Tigers won last season’s title has certainly not bred complacency in head coach, Richard Cockerill. Fifteen players have departed and some interesting new names have joined the Leicester bandwagon as they prepare for their title-defending Premiership campaign.

Anthony Allen has a chance to restart his career that stalled at Gloucester, and will relish the opportunity to link up with Toby Flood, Sam Vesty, Aaron Mauger and Dan Hipkiss. In fact, he’ll need to be comfortable with limited game-time to begin with, given the quality ahead of him in the pecking order

Leicester don’t appear to need any other starting players, so the remainder of the signings have a look of squad cover to them, but all would be more than adequate to step up if needed. Possibly their only limitation will be on the wings, where the loss of Varndell, although not a regular starter, leaves them short on try-scoring cover.

Julien Dupuy is probably their biggest loss but had he not gone it would have been difficult to satisfy the ever-improving Ben Youngs with enough game time so this perhaps won’t be too hard to overcome.

The Tigers will open the Guinness Premiership away at Sale, which is not an easy fixture to start the season. Edgeley Park on a Friday night is a difficult place to get a result, but if Leicester can open their account with a win, they’ll go straight to the top of the table, and may not move all year.

A brief glance at the Tigers’ player list tells you that Leicester appear to have strength in depth and a squad ready to peak for the next two or three seasons. They will be a force to be reckoned with, will make the playoffs at a canter and I believe they will win it.

Prediction: 1st

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