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Heroes off the pitch and on it

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Darren Garforth should still carry a warning 'This man can seriously damage your health' but at least it is off the pitch these days.

One of the toughest men The Tig has ever seen in a rugby shirt, Garforth was in magnificent and hilarious form at the Kings of Europe dinner which formed one of the launch events for Louis Deacon’s benefit year at Welford Road.

Garforth’s ease of story-telling is as impressive as his scrummaging ever was, his friendliness with supporters the absolute opposite of his relationship with his rivals on the pitch.

The fearsome front-rower is always in great form in the company of the team-mates who were alongside him as he reached the pinnacle of European rugby. Not just once either, but in successive years in 2001 and 2002.

The Tig was among the lucky ones who attended the Kings Of Europe event and it was great to see one of the ‘unsung heroes’ taking centre stage.

We will never grow weary of seeing the magic of Austin Healey and Geordan Murphy, the cool kicking of Tim Stimpson, the sheer class of Johnson, Back and Corry. But it seemed fitting that one of the central characters at a dinner in honour of Deacon should be a man always revered by team-mates but perhaps overlooked by some strange souls on the outside.

The evening also illustrated the legacy those players created in a Leicester shirt and the size of the challenge for all of their successors.

Garforth and Graham Rowntree will say publicly that they were there to make life easier for more flashy team-mates, but deep down everyone knows it starts with a statement from the forwards, a belligerence and a determination not to be bettered.

Could any squad convey that frame of mind better than one containing Wig, Skins, Johnno, Back, Corry, Richard Cockerill and Dorian West? If so, you can safely say you wouldn’t like to knock into them in a rush for the bar.