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Ford tips hat to Tigers cubs

18-year-old fly-half Sam Costelow was among the players making a senior Tigers debut at Sixways.
18-year-old fly-half Sam Costelow was among the players making a senior Tigers debut at Sixways.

Handing debuts to eight new Leicester Tigers players – including first senior appearances for two 18-year-old half-backs – was the biggest positive of the first hit-out of the season, according to assistant coach Mike Ford.

While Tigers eventually lost out 57-23 in their opening game of the Premiership Rugby Cup at Sixways, the match will serve as vital experience for the young squad when the first round of the Gallagher Premiership rolls around next month.

“In the first game of the season, you’re looking for a decent hit-out and you’re looking to see how fit you are,” Ford explained. “We’ve got that first hit-out in us, and there were some good signs out there.

“We know we’ve got a lot of players away with the World Cup – we’re only second behind Saracens – and Cup games are all about making our squad depth stronger and having a look at these debutants and youngsters.

“It’s also looking [ahead] at the first game of the year when we come back here to Worcester, ready to play in the Premiership, because that’s our target this year.”

Fly-half Sam Costelow and No9 Jack van Poortvliet were among 16 Tigers Academy graduates in the matchday squad that took on a Worcester Warriors side peppered with seasoned Premiership performers on Saturday, and Ford singled out the two half-backs for praise.

He continued: “We challenged the two young half-backs to try and run a game and tactically adapt on the run.

“They did well in parts and, as you can imagine, when the scoreboard’s not so kind to you and possession’s not so kind to you, we got a few things wrong.

“Those young players will come out of this 100% better for that experience.”

And it was another academy product who ran in Tigers’ first try of the match, in the form of loanee Andy Forsyth.

Ford explained the build-up to the score offered a glimpse of what is to come.

“The try that was scored was a little snapshot of what we’ve been doing,” he added, with a smile.