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Academy graduates climb through Tigers ranks

The progress of almost 20 players up through the Leicester Tigers system this summer is an indication of the strength of the club’s academy.

Seven players who have been promoted into the senior squad from development level for 2019/20 are products of the club’s academy system, and another 11 will step up to follow in their footsteps from the age-group ranks.

“The changes we’ve put in place in the academy over the last few years are starting to bear fruit – and not just at development level but in the senior squad too,” said Ged Glynn who, as head of performance pathway and talent identification at Tigers, has overall responsibility for the academy’s work.

“It’s not just about coming up through the academy but also that important step into the development squad and what happens to them then.

“Development is a continuing process which is not just based on age. Players develop and mature at different rates and we’re hoping to give as many as possible the maximum time to reach their potential here.”

Ben White and Tommy Reffell, who both captained their country at under-20s level, are among the seven academy graduates who join the senior squad for the new season.

“It’s not just about coming up through the academy but also that important step into the development squad and what happens to them then.

Ged Glynn

Joe Heyes, who played in his second World Under-20s with England this summer and made 22 first-team appearances as a teenager last season, is also elevated, alongside Tom Hardwick, Sam Lewis, Jordan Olowofela and Harry Simmons.

The eighth player to join the first-team set-up is Sam Aspland-Robinson who joined the development squad as a 20-year-old last season.

“We’ve got that group of academy boys who have come all the way through but our work with the development squad has also attracted players from outside the environment in that 19 to 20 age-group, like Sam last year,” added Glynn.

This year Tigers have brought in full-back Kyran Bungaroo to join the development squad after a spell in France.

Bungaroo’s form as a teenager with Brighton College led to the opportunity to join Biarritz and he made nine first-team appearances in three seasons there.

The development squad also includes Taylor Gough, Cameron Jordan, Henri Lavin, Keston Lines and Thom Smith who enter a second year at that level.

Fellow academy graduates Ollie Ashworth, Joe Browning, Sam Costelow, Sam Eveleigh, Leo Gilliland, Jonny Law, Tom Manz, George Martin, Freddie Steward, Jack Van Poortvliet and James Whitcombe all step up, alongside Loughborough Students prop Osman Dimen, who played for Tigers in the Premiership Shield last season.

Glynn added: “We’ve had two exceptional cohorts in the academy who have won the Under-18 League in the last two years and you’d expect to see a good number of them come through.

“All 11 of those players made it into at least international training camps last season, with George Martin made captain of England Under-18s and Sam Costelow playing for Wales Under-18s and then at the Under-20 World Championships.

“To keep such a large number of an exceptional group together can only enhance the culture at the club right from the youngest age-groups.

“I think the progress of all of those players is a tribute to them and to everyone involved in the academy, from Dave Wilks and Jamie Taylor, together with the work of Brett Deacon and Anthony Allen when they were involved, and the rest of the backroom staff.

“Now it is all about helping those players in the next stage of their careers and providing opportunities for them.”

“To keep such a large number of an exceptional group together can only enhance the culture at the club right from the youngest age-groups.

Ged Glynn

Promoted to Senior Squad 2019/20
Sam Aspland-Robinson
Tom Hardwick
Joe Heyes
Sam Lewis
Jordan Olowofela
Tommy Reffell
Harry Simmons
Ben White

Development Squad 2019/20
Ollie Ashworth
Joe Browning
Kyran Bangaroo
Sam Costelow
Osman Dimen
Sam Eveleigh
Leo Gilliland
Taylor Gough
Cameron Jordan
Henri Lavin
Jonny Law
Keston Lines
Tom Manz
George Martin
Thom Smith
Freddie Steward
Jack Van Poortvliet
James Whitcombe