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Curtain up on Kings of the North

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Leicester Tigers launch their Kings of the North campaign at Sale Sharks on Saturday with a squad showing a mix of youth and experience.Graham Kitchener, Mike Williams and Tom Croft are included in a 28-man squad hoping for their first run-out of the pre-season after sitting out last Saturday’s match against Los Pumas.   The pre-season programme provides building blocks for the start of the Aviva Premiership and director of rugby Richard Cockerill says everything is geared to being ready for the October 18 trip to London Irish in Round One.   “It was good to get a first hit-out against Argentina last weekend and it gives us something to work from,” said Cockerill.   “We’ll have a squad of 28 for the Kings of the North this weekend with a few young guys in there to gain some experience and we’ll rotate a few senior guys out at this point.   “We’ve got five more pre-season games and we’re working backwards from October 18. You want to be as well prepared as possible, but you have to manage everything backwards from that first league game.”   Summer signings Peter Betham, Mike Fitzgerald, Greg Bateman and Lachlan McCaffrey all made their first appearance in Tigers colours against Los Pumas, while Cockerill was also impressed by a number of the young players who were given an opportunity.   This weekend back-rower Williams is in line for his debut, while Croft returns from a shoulder injury for his first game since March.   “We were a little bit frustrated at some of the errors last week but, credit to the players, they didn’t let the game get away from them and it was a four-point ball game going into the last 15 minutes or so,” added Cockerill. “We just have to make sure we build steadily week on week during this period.”   Sharks won 36-22 at Newcastle in their opening Kings of the North fixture last weekend and include new signing Bryan Mujati in their line-up, alongside the experienced Tom Arscott, Nick Macleod, Chris Cusiter, Jonathan Mills, David Seymour and Bryan Evans. Former Tigers hooker Neil Briggs, who returned to the North-West club this summer, is included among their replacements.   Tigers’ first home game  in the Kings of the North is against Newcastle Falcons next Saturday (September 19). Kick-off at Welford Road is at 3pm and tickets are available now. Book in person at the Tigers ticket office in the Club Store at Welford Road, phone 0116 319 8888 or click here to book online.   Next week’s match follows Tigers In The Park activities for the whole family, open from 10am.   Home games in Kings of the North are included in Tigers season tickets.   Leicester Tigers (v Sale Sharks, away, Saturday 2.30pm) Backs: Seremaia Bai, Tommy Bell, Freddie Burns, George Catchpole, Sam Harrison, Christian Loamanu, Paolo Odogwu, Matt Smith, Adam Thompstone, George Tresidder, Ben White, George Worth Forwards: Fraser Balmain, Greg Bateman, Charlie Beckett, Riccardo Brugnara, Sebastian de Chaves, Tom Croft, Jake Farnworth, Mike Fitzgerald, Graham Kitchener, Joe Maksymiw, Will Owen, Matt Parr, Laurence Pearce, Tiziano Pasquali, Harry Thacker, Mike Williams