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Alex Spink: Wounded Tigers still in hunt despite year of living perilously

18 Feb | BY Betway | MIN READ TIME |
Alex Spink: Wounded Tigers still in hunt despite year of living perilously

Alex Spink charts the 10-time English champions' rollercoaster campaign ahead of their revenge mission to London Irish.

LEICESTER take on London Irish this Sunday in rather better mood to the last time the clubs met.

Back in September the Exiles arrived at Welford Road to face a Tigers side in turmoil seven days on from their Premiership record 45-0 drubbing by Bath.

It would get worse before it got better for the 10-time English champions as Shane Geraghty kicked a last-minute penalty to win it 22-19 for Irish.

From there Leicester went to Gloucester and were simply blown away by the Cherry and Whites, who led 33-9 inside the hour before taking their foot off the gas and settling for a 33-16 win.

At which point Tigers lay third from bottom of the Aviva Premiership and angry mail from fans started arriving at the club.

It has been a far from satisfactory season for Richard Cockerill’s charges, who also lost heavily at Harlequins and failed to make it out of their group in their European Champions Cup.

They have been crippled by injuries, with fly-half Owen Williams and lock Louis Deacon the latest casualties this week. Williams will not play again this season after undergoing knee ligament surgery, Deacon will not play again.

And yet Tigers are not a club who accept defeat in any form and so should never be written off.

For all their travails they lie only two points off a top-four Play-Off spot in the Premiership with eight games still to play.

They have still mustered notable victories in Europe over Toulon, the reigning champions, Ulster and Scarlets – and in the league over high-flying quartet Bath, Wasps, Quins and Exeter.

They are also through to the semi-finals of the Anglo-Welsh Cup, sponsored by LV=, and play holders Exeter Chiefs at home on March 15.

And on Sunday they have Tom Youngs and Tom Croft back from England duty to bolster their pack, along with Italy’s highly-rated hooker Leonardo Ghiraldini.

Beat an Irish side with just four wins from 14 Premiership outings and their next three games are eminently winnable against Sale, Newcastle and Exeter.

This is not to say Tigers are out of the woods. They end their regular season with visits to Saracens and Wasps before finishing up at home to champions and arch derby rivals Northampton.

But they are not quite the basket case some would have us believe. You discount any team coached by Cockerill at your peril.

With England’s forgotten fly-half Freddie Burns back in the 10 shirt with a point to prove, and long-term crocks Manu Tuilagi and Ed Slater hopefully back in time for the run-in, Leicester won’t lack for desire come the business end.

How much that counts for remains to be seen. Bath and Northampton clash at the Rec on Saturday. Many experts will tell you that is a dress rehearsal for the Premiership final.