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Hit hard early on but getting stronger

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We can all enjoy a game of Fantasy Rugby and pick a 'dream team' to represent our hopes in a hypothetical fixture. But then Fantasy players are never injured, unavailable or on international duty elsewhere around the globe just when you need them.

The way home from last Saturday’s game at The Rec provided ample time to ponder the options available in the Tigers squad – and think how difficult it must be for Cockers and Co to actually work out who can play where and when.

It was great to see Ed Slater and Steve Mafi out on the pitch again, and to follow Seb de Chaves on his debut in the second row, and the team were within a whisker of pulling off a remarkable comeback victory in a tough Round 2 fixture before having to settle for just a consolation point.

There were positives, however deep the disappointment of seeing Bath enjoy their post-match lap of honour, and now we’re looking to bounce back quickly.

But as a quick exercise, here’s a quality Tigers team: Tait, Camacho, Tuilagi, Smith, Benjamin, Flood, B Youngs; Ayerza, Hawkins, Balmain, Price, Kitchener, Noone, Gibson, Waldrom. It’s probably the best Tigers team you’ve never seen, at least this season, as not one of those players has started a game in the opening two weeks.

In most cases that is due to injury, while Marcos is still on international duty and there are a couple who have appeared only from the bench or played in the ‘A’ League so far.

Every Tigers fan knows the depth of the squad is really tested during the Test phases of the season, but to have that line-up missing in the early weeks is surely something new.

We know also that these are the opportunities that others have to take to step up and blossom. Where Ben Kay succeeded almost 15 years ago, others have done likewise since, including the likes of Dan Cole, Slater and Mafi, covering for others and then developing into top-class talents.

Cockers says Tigers are only going to get better as the season goes on, which you have to believe when you think of the development of top-class combinations as well as individual skills, together with maintaining freshness in the squad using rotation of resources in a long and challenging season.

He’ll be looking forward to making some big calls when all of the big guns are firing simultaneously.