Inside the Tigers’ Den - Heartache for England’s Leicester Tigers

Leicester Tigers and England prop Dan Cole in action against Harlequins. Tigers Images
Leicester Tigers and England prop Dan Cole in action against Harlequins. Tigers Images
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After all the hype and excitement about the possibility of winning a first Grand Slam in ten years it was a disappointing day for England on Saturday when the national team, which included a remarkable seven players from Leicester Tigers, were blown away by Wales 30-3.

It was a reality check for England who not only lost the chance to go into the history books as Grand Slam winners but saw their championship hopes dashed by Wales’ record Six Nations win over them.

What’s more a few reputations were dented at the Millennium Stadium with a place on the plane to Australia for the British and Irish Lions tour also up for grabs.

Manu Tuilagi went from world beater to ghost, rarely seen in a match which cried out for the impact which only he could deliver.

Unfortunately for the young Samoan-born centre his only memorable moment of the encounter game early in the first half when he knocked on a pass from a set piece move when Wales looked incredibly vulnerable. To make things worst for the centre his main rival for a place in the Lions side, Jamie Roberts, had the type of physical barn-storming performance which saw him named Man of the Series in the 2009 Lions tour of South Africa.

The same was true in the scrum half battle where Leicester’s Ben Youngs was outplayed by the powerful Mike Phillips.

Perhaps more surprising was the way prop Dan Cole was out played in the scrum by another Lions incumbent Adam Jones who will now be favourite to start at tight head for the Lions although the England front row will almost certainly still be involved with the tour and the test side.

It wasn’t much of a better day for the other Leicester forwards in the side. Tom Youngs struggled with his line out accuracy, over throwing his jumpers on various occasions to weaken what had been highlighted as one of England’s most potent weapons going into the tie.

Tom Croft played admirably well in his first international start since returning from long term injury but was outplayed by his opposite number, Sam Warburton.

One man who continued to show he is a man for all occasions was Geoff Parling, whose levels of commitment can never be doubted. Even in the last minute of the game the Leicester lock could be seen bursting through the Welsh defence.

Toby Flood game off the bench in the 67th minute but by that point the game was out of reach. He showed a glimpse of his illusive running when he found a gap in the red wall but was brought down just before the line.

So England will have to wait another year to attempt another assault on the Six Nations and the Grand Slam but a team which has won four games in the championship does not become a bad side after one performance. All of Leicester’s seven players involved on Saturday still have a strong chance of making the Lions tour and those not selected will have an important role rebuilding England’s confidence on their tour of Argentina.

It wasn’t all bad news for Tigers players away on international duty. On Friday night Leicester academy flanker Harry Wells crossed the line twice as England Under-20s were crowned Six Nations champions for a third time in a row with a 28-15 victory over Wales Under-20s at Eirias Park, in Colwyn Bay, Wales.

The back row scored a try in each half to help England claim the crown. Tigers wing Henry Purdy was a late replacement on the bench however did not feature.

Four players from Leicester’s fabled academy also claimed victory over the Welsh on Sunday last week with a 44-7 win for England U18s at St Helens.

Leicester full-back Tom Hudson and flanker Will Owen started for England and prop Neale Farthing and scrum-half George Tressider both came off the bench in the victory.

With Leicester’s academy producing more talent for the national teams the future looks bright for both club and country.

The Tigers 1st team will restart their Aviva Premiership campaign at 5pm on Saturday away at Sandy Park against Exeter Chiefs. They go into the figure sitting in third place in the league, just one point behind Harlequins in second and the all important home semi-final position.