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Cockerill ready for Premiership kick-off

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Richard Cockerill heads into his first Guinness Premiership match as acting head coach this weekend boosted by the form and fitness of his first-team squad.

Tigers open their defence of the Guinness Premiership title with a trip to face Bristol at the Memorial Ground on Sunday after recording five wins out of five in a pre-season programme which reach a climax with the 32-10 victory over Montauban on Saturday.

Cockerill says he has "huge belief" in the squad available to him, especially as he has almost everyone fit and raring to go.

"We have guys away at the World Cup and we will be without Harry Ellis and Scott Bemand, but we have known about that situation for a while," said Cockerill.

"Ian Humphreys and Gavin Hickie are working their way back after operations in the summer, but everyone else should be available.

"There are some tough selection choices to make and that is a great position to be in. That is exactly what you want in your squad. We know what we want to do and we will have a good week's training building up to the game."

Louis Deacon, Marco Wentzel, Richard Blaze and Paul Burke are all fit and will be in contention for the Bristol match. And, while there were a few bumps and bruises in the win over Montauban, Cockerill expects those to clear up for this weekend.

"Brett Deacon took a bang on his calf, but that was a normal bump from a competitive game," he said. "And Andy Goode landed a bit awkwardly on his knee, but it probably looked a lot worse than it was and he will be okay."

After coming through the build-up unbeaten, Cockerill said: "The boys want a meaningful match now and the trip to Bristol on the first day of the Guinness Premiership is certainly meaningful. We are a big-game team and I expect us to front up and represent this club the way it needs to be represented.

"The spirit of the boys was outstanding on Saturday and, although the performance left room for improvement, you have to take some satisfaction and some positives from the win. Montauban are a hard team to play against, the French Championship is a tough league to play in and I like that as a test for us.

"It is a tough start for us with Bristol, Bath, Wasps and Gloucester, but I have huge belief in this team."