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Euro heavyweights shape next generation

A pre-season exchange of knowledge and cultures is set to benefit the next generation of players at two of European rugby’s best-supported clubs.

Clermont Auvergne’s young players visited Leicester Tigers in August to experience British culture, visit the historic Welford Road stadium, and take part in a practice match at Tigers’ Oval Park training ground.

The Tigers academy then headed to Montferrand for an equally eye-opening experience as well as a second practice match against Les Jaunards.

Both clubs share a long history of competition as well as former players in common including the likes of Benjamin Kayser, Richard Cockerill and Pat Howard, and – most recently – Seremaia Bai and Peter Betham.

“There are a few key reasons for investing in a trip like this,” said Tigers academy manager Dave Wilks.

“We will continue to be a top European club, and so at some level the players have to experience elements of a long away trip to help prepare them for when it comes round for real.”

“We learn a lot about the players. There is no hiding place when you spend all day every day together and it is really important that the staff get to know every individual so we can get the best out of them.

“We have also seen how they respond to fatigue and, more importantly, pressure. The games have been very physical and we are really pleased with how the players have responded.”

The trip to France offered vital time for players and staff to get to know one another, with the regular season squeezed between academic studies and other extra-curricular activities.

Wilks added: “The players also form stronger bonds and, while we take training and playing seriously, there has been a lot of down-time and fun, with the boys having done shooting, archery, high ropes, canoeing and sailing plus loads of other challenges that form a great experience.

“With a new staff group, it has given us time to get to know each other properly and work better together as well.”

Fred Sciauvaud, head coach of Clermont’s junior squad, added: “We had the opportunity to organise this exchange thanks to the good relations we have had with Leicester for a long time.

“We did not come [to Leicester] for tourism, we came to work the players hard, [and] to discover another culture and way of working.”

And Sciauvaud revealed his squad had been massively impressed with the facilities both at Welford Road and Oval Park.

“[Tigers] have top working tools, and some excellent pitches,” he continued. “We see that at home too; nothing is left to chance.

“We can clearly feel the attention to detail that Tigers make in their work.”