Inside the Tigers’ Den - Decision to make Brad Thorn Tigers captain could be a masterstroke

Leicester Tigers v Saracens Brad Thorn. Photo: Tiger Images EMN-141118-134425001
Leicester Tigers v Saracens Brad Thorn. Photo: Tiger Images EMN-141118-134425001

The good news is Leicester Tigers could have beaten arguably the best team in the Aviva Premiership on Sunday, the bad news is they didn’t.

Leicester drew 21-21 with last season’s league toppers Saracens at Welford Road thanks to a late penalty from fly-half Owen Williams.

The rather dubious final penalty was won in a familiar area of strength for Leicester - the scrum, with Fraser Balmain coming off the bench to make a real impact and let returning British and Irish Lion Dan Cole know that he may be the big dog at the club but he is biting at his heels.

With the rain pouring down it was a game for the purists and the big forwards of which both sides had many.

One of the more significant of them was former All Blacks lock Brad Thorn who captained Tigers in just his fifth appearance for the club after joining in the summer.

Leicester director of rugby Richard Cockerill’s decision to make Thorn captain could be a stroke of brilliance. It is an area Leicester have struggled this season with club captain Ed Slater out with a long-term knee injury.

Ben Youngs has been filling the void but he is away with England and has never looked a natural fit for the job.

He has only had limited chances off the replacements bench for England so far this Autumn but is expected to start against Samoa on Saturday.

There is something about a big, dominant second row captain - a man who the referee has to look up to when he is explaining a decision that fits the Leicester physche

Former Ireland captain Brian O’Driscoll has spoken his new book about the difficulties of skippering a side from the backs as he felt you need to be on the spot where the action is happening. Of course Youngs as a scrum half is more involved in a game than a centre but forwards have a real say in the match whether a side is winning or losing as they are on the front line putting their bodies on the line at every tackle, ruck and scrum.The World Cup winning dual code international Thorn has done it all and looked well-fit to a leadership role. His experienced head brought a refreshing air of calm to the team on Sunday.

Thorn at 39 is the oldest player to skipper Tigers but he led from the front, carrying hard and providing quality ball at the ruck.

Thorn said: “I am really proud to wear the Leicester jersey, to represent the area and to captain the guys.

“It means a lot. Richard Cockerill asked me to come over here and I’m trying to repay him with performances and to be asked to captain is a real honour.”

There were no tries in the match with all the points coming from Charlie Hodgson for Saracens and his opposite number Williams for Tigers.

If Williams had been more accurate with his kicking earlier on Leicester could even have won but he was cool as ice in the final seconds to kick the levelling score.

In cricket terms it felt like a winning draw for Leicester on Sunday, coming from behind to claim two league points.