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Black Lion: The lowdown on Tigers' newest opponents

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In less than two weeks, on Friday, May 3, Leicester Tigers will face a Georgian rugby team for the very first time.

The exhibition fixture has been added to the 23/24 Season Ticket and Half-Season Ticket at no additional cost to holders, while additional tickets are available here at a special reduced cost.

So, for those not familiar with our upcoming opponents, here we aim to answer: who are the Black Lion?

Firstly, the match will also mark the return of Leicester Tigers legend Richard Cockerill to the East-Midlands.

The former hooker is head coach of both the Black Lion and the Georgian National Team, having enjoyed a prolific spell at Leicester that included over 250 appearances, with a trophy haul of five league titles, two European cups and two domestic cups, and spent several years as head coach, a tenure in which Tigers recorded three Premiership title wins (back-to-back in 2009 & 2010 as well as in 2013).

He's also 'B' in the famous ABC club, a front row trio that also included Graham Rowntree and Darren Garforth and many of the Tigers Family will be ready to give Cockerill a warm welcome on his return to the club he called home for over 23 years.

Now in a coaching capacity at the Georgian side, the Black Lion will be bringing a serious winning mentality to Mattioli Woods Welford Road.

The team have won all three iterations of the Rugby Europe Super Cup, triumphing in the 2023 showpiece over Tel-Aviv Head whilst they are currently unbeaten in 2024, having won all five of their matches thus far.

This season has also seen them compete in the Challenge Cup, a campaign that saw them defeat Welsh side the Scarlets away from home and narrowly fall short, in an agonising 10 - 15 loss, against Gloucester Rugby.

The Black Lion were first formed in 2021, as the Georgian franchise to represent the country in the inaugural Rugby Europe Super Cup, wherein they have established themselves as the premier team.

Their style of play is emblamatic of the national side, with a heavy emphasis on physicality and ball carrying; Tigers fans will also appreciate their penchant for a rolling maul, as demonstrated here.

Away from the forwards, there's also mercurial talents in the backline; these include top scoring fly half Luka Matkava, who slotted the winning penalty in Georgia's historic win over Wales and scored 13 points from the tee in the Black Lion's victory over the Scarlets, and their top try scorer, lethal wing Akaki Tabutsadze, has scored 28 tries for the club and boasts an impressive strike rate of 35 tries in 39 international games.

Finally, we would be remiss to discuss our upcoming opponents without mentioning the country they represent and their relationship with Rugby Union. The Black Lion are representing a nation that truly loves rugby, the game very similar to the ancient Georgian sport of 'Lelo' and has enjoyed incredible success in recent years.

Their European Rugby Championship pedigree is unmatched, having won all but one of the last 15 iterations of the tournament, while in test matches from 2022 the side recorded their first ever victories over a Tier 1 nation, downing both Italy and Wales in July and November respectively.

With this weekend's Gallagher Premiership match against Bristol Bears all but sold out, make sure to be at Mattioli Woods Welford Road for another blockbuster just one week later.