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Centres struck by injury and absence curse

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It was interesting to note the number of combinations Tigers have had to pick at centre already this season. Perhaps club president Paul Dodge wasn't joking when he wrote in his programme column that he'd been told he was next!

A total of a dozen pairs of centres have started games for Tigers in their 21 games so far this season.

The figure would be even higher if you recall changes during matches and the fact that Pasqualle Dunn was drafted in for his senior debut as a replacement in midfield during the LV= Cup match at Worcester in October.

It is a phenomenal number and clearly shows the bad luck the players, the coaches and the supporters have had to endure in the opening five months of the season in terms of having players available on a consistent basis.

Anthony Allen and Manu Tuilagi are regarded by most as the first-choice pair, with Dan Bowden and Matt Smith there or thereabouts as the main options, while this season Vereniki Goneva has been the almost-constant as others have been sidelined.

Toby Flood, club captain and fly-half, has filled in at 12, likewise wing Adam Thompstone at 13; first-choice 12 Allen has played 13 outside Bowden, and regular 13 Smith has switched to 12 at times, and there have been call-ups for young Javiah Pohe and George Catchpole, and new arrival Terrence Hepetema.

The kit man is probably using pencil on the back of shirts rather than ink and there is a revolving door where the pegs have previously been situated in the dressing room. It has to affect not only the performance on matchdays but all of the preparation work during the week too.

Just crashing the ball up in midfield is not going to unlock the best defences, where coaches and players are always looking for a key to pick a secure lock; while in defence the role of the modern 12 and 13 is huge, making split-second decisions and organising cover in pressure situations.

Knowing exactly who is there to make those decisions, and the instinct built from playing in combinations on a regular basis, provide the key, no matter what the game-breaking abilities of individuals. It would be great to think we can get there for the business end of the season.