Inside the Tigers’ Den - Leicester kids show how its done at sevens finals

Tom Croft on the attack for Leicester Tigers against Harlequins. Tiger Images ENGEMN00120130617142145
Tom Croft on the attack for Leicester Tigers against Harlequins. Tiger Images ENGEMN00120130617142145

The new season is speeding towards us at startling speed and as Leicester knock lumps out of each other in training the stars of the future have been strutting their stuff.

A little entertaining side show was the final of the Premiership sevens competition at Harlequin’s Twickenham Stoop on Friday.

The competition, much like the LV= Cup, is used by most clubs as a development tool for their young talent. In this case Leicester were no exception playing a team with no household names in.

However Leicester’s team did the club more than proud. After losing their opening game against Cardiff Blues after conceding a last second try, Tigers were relegated to the Plate competition but after the initial set-back they showed great passion and commitment to reach the final.

On the way to the final they beat the old enemy Northampton Saints 21=12 which always delights the club’s die-hard fans.

Leicester met London Irish in the final and scored three unanswered tries in a 17-0 victory, in one of the most nontraditional sevens contests you will ever see.

With soaking week conditions Tigers’ youngsters reverted to “The Leicester way” making the final a physical contest which Leicester sides rarely come out on the wrong side of.

The sevens competition is a brilliant development portal for Premiership clubs, and players like former Leicester Academy winger Henry Purdy, now of Gloucester, performed so well that he may well get a shot in their senior squad come September.

But with sevens getting a larger share of the spotlight each year, being one of the star attractions at the recent Commonwealth Games and soon to become an Olympic sport, it is a pity that the clubs don’t put out their very best line ups.

Imagine a Leicester sevens team of Tom Croft, Steve Mafi and Tom Youngs in the pack with Ben Youngs, Freddie Burns, Niki Goneva and Mat Tait in the backs, then bring Manu Tuilagi, Blaine Scully and Miles Benjamin off the bench for some fresh legs. That would be a frightening prospect and a team I would like to see play.

However the club’s big names have been going through their paces in pre-season fitness both with Leicester and England and Tigers director of rugby Richard Cockerill will be judged on results come the end of the 15-a-side season, not sevens.

Eight Tigers were named in Stuart Lancaster’s 55-man England training squad this week, including flanker Tom Croft who missed the New Zealand tour while rehabbing his knee after making a remarkable return for Leicester at the end of the season.

Also back in the England set-up is hooker Tom Youngs who stayed at home this summer because of family commitments.

He joined his brother Ben, and team mates Ed Slater, Geoff Parling, Manu Tuilagi, Anthony Allen and Freddie Burns at the training camp in Loughborough.

Injured prop Dan Cole was also named in the elite group of players but did not train as he is still recovering from an operation on his neck.

Argentine duo Marcos Ayerza and Pablo Matera are preparing for the start of the southern hemisphere’s The Rugby Championship, which kicks off on Saturday against South Africa. The game kicks off at 4.05pm.