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Howard intends to wait for festive judgement

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Leicester Tigers started the new year at Welford Road with another powerful performance and a Guinness Premiership victory. But head coach Pat Howard says he will not pass a verdict on the returns from the hectic holiday period until next weekend.

A sell-out crowd saw Tigers come from behind to win and claim a bonus point thanks to two scores from Alesana Tuilagi, one from Ben Kay and a penalty try awarded by referee Chris White. Fly-half Ian Humphreys converted all four tries as Leicester strengthened their hold on second spot in the table, one point behind Bristol.

"We have scored at least four tries in each of our three Christmas and New Year games so from that point of view it is going okay," said Howard, whose side beat Bristol at Welford Road on the Friday before Christmas but lost by a single point at London Irish on Boxing Day.

"We let ourselves down a bit at London Irish by letting in three tries, but we have had two other wins in this period. We have taken 12 points so far but I think to judge it fairly you have to wait another week."

Tigers go to Newcastle Falcons on Sunday in their fourth Premiership match inside a hectic 17-day spell. And they will go in good heart after the win over Saracens.

Victory came despite Howard making wholesale changes to his starting line-up from the side that started against the Irish, and he also had to make a late alteration when George Chuter pulled out in the build-up to the game with a back problem. James Buckland stepped up to the starting XV, with Alex Moreno taking a place on the bench.

But Howard has confidence in the strength in depth within his squad and said: "We are lucky in some regards because we lose so many players during the autumn series that we get to look at the second tier of players. Through the autumn internationals we did okay so we know what those players can do. In that regard we have flexibility and the belief to use the full squad during this period."

Howard reported no further injury worries, though prop Julian White required stitches in a cut above an eye for the second successive game.