One of the advantages of an occasional Friday evening fixture is the opportunity to take a relaxed and dispassionate look at the rest of the rugby world over the weekend, especially when Tigers already have their points on the board.
On Friday we enjoyed victory over Sale Sharks – a fourth in the last seven years for those who still think Tigers don’t win away anywhere or specifically at Sale – and then on Saturday The Tig settled down to watch Gloucester against Bath on TV.
This was meant to be a way of killing a couple of hours and spying on two teams we haven’t faced yet. But then up popped the caption for the respective midfields, featuring three centres who previously played for Leicester.
It is rare for there to be any bitterness from supporters in seeing former favourites lining up in new colours in rugby. In a salary-capped competition, it is inevitable that players will move around. “There are only so many places at the table,” is Richard Cockerill’s description of assembling a squad.
In the last couple of seasons Welford Road has given a very warm reception to the likes of Andy Goode, Sam Vesty and Brett Deacon in foreign colours. Luke Abraham was even given the privilege by team-mates of running out first and receiving the welcome alone. It is a great pity Lewis Moody was unable to make a similar run on his return before injury intervened.
The players who do return know what awaits them on the field, for good or for bad, but thankfully they also know what is likely to await from the stands. He who sheds blood, sweat and tears in the Tigers cause is never forgotten.
On Saturday, Gloucester’s Billy Twelvetrees went head to head with Sam Vesty and Dan Hipkiss. Another former Tiger, Jim Hamilton led the Cherry and Whites in the hard-nosed manner of a man who mixed it with the likes of Martin Johnson, Ben Kay and Louis Deacon in the engine room of the Tigers pack. And for good measure Kay and Austin Healey passed judgement from the TV commentary box.
The Tigers old boys all gave a good demonstration of what we liked about them in Leicester shirts, and The Tig was encouraging them all the way, no matter what the score in the match or the colour of their shirts.
There are only two times a season when we hope they finish on the losing side!
Once a Tiger, always a Tiger.