Inside the Tigers’ Den - Are there worries out wide?

Leicester Tigers director of rugby Richard Cockerill
Leicester Tigers director of rugby Richard Cockerill
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Leicester finished last season as the top try scorers in the Aviva Premiership and on Saturday they ran 11 tries against Championship side Jersey, but do Tigers have the fire power out wide to challenge the best in the league and Europe?

Tigers’ try scorers were returning British and Irish Lion Geoff Parling, Niki Goneva (two) Steve Mafi and Julian Salvi, Ryan Lamb (two), David Mele, Adam Thompstone, Jamie Gibson and Henry Purdy.

Three of Leicester’s wingers got over the line during the encounter but there appears to be a gulf in quality between the rest of Richard Cockerill’s squad and his wing options.

When the England Elite Player Squad and England Saxons sides were announced this summer Tigers had players in every position across the field selected apart from wingers.

Going into the 2013/14 season, which kicks off at home to Worcester Warriors on September 8, Leicester have Fijian international Goneva, Irish Wolfhound Niall Morris, Adam Thompstone, former England Saxon Miles Benjamin, England U20s world championship winner Henry Purdy, George Catchpole, former All Black Scott Hamilton and the durable Matt Smith.

Cockerill also has Argentine winger Gonzalo Camancho to add to the mix when he finishes representing the Pumas in The Rugby Championship which comes to a close in October.

However many will question why Camancho, who started on the wing in Argentina’s 22-17 loss to South Africa on Saturday, was brought in when fan favourite Horacio Agulla was allowed to swap Welford Road for Bath and The Rec because of concerns he would not be available for much of the season.

Leicester’s wing options would be a the admiration of many clubs in the Aviva Premiership but they need to keep pace with the elite of European rugby and Tigers’ wingers amount to emerging talents, past their prime players and a raft of wingers who haven’t quite hit the top level.

Goneva and Thompstone are powerful players, who scored 10 and nine tries a piece last season, but neither man has been able to replace the Samoan bulldozer Alesana Tuilagi, who left the club for Japan last season.

Leicester’s power wingers are more than capable of finishing off a move but don’t have the same devastating ability to run over a man like Tuilagi did.

Cockerill had broken his template with the signing of Camancho and Miles Benjamin, who was signed from Worcester last season but has yet to play for the first team after picking up a neck injury in his first run out for the club in the A League last September.

Tigers have tended to sign monster players but the two diminutive men rely on their speed and agility to beat a man. What will excite Cockerill is they will provide him with a plan B which Tigers lacked at times last season when their power game occasionally faltered.

Purdy and Catchpole are exciting talents and Hamilton and Smith will always do a solid job out wide. Only time will tell if Leicester have all the pieces in place to defend their league title and take a shot at conquering Europe.