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Humble and heroic, Marcos is a genuine favourite

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Props don't often attract the spotlight, or demand it, but Marcos Ayerza will be forgiven for enjoying a few minutes as the centre of attention when he has a chance to say farewell to the Tigers Family faithful.

Back in 2006, Marcos arrived from amateur rugby in Argentina and made such progress over the next decade that he became acknowledged among the very best loosehead props in the world. This week he announced his retirement from playing this week after 246 games for the Tigers.
In the last 11 seasons he has enjoyed four Premiership title wins, two Anglo-Welsh Cups, an Outstanding Service Award, a Player of the Season gong, a testimonial year and appearances in two European Cup Finals.
As always, though, the stats tell just part of the story.
He also earned a rare status as a Tigers player upon whom the media unfailingly lavished their praise.
Marcos was also truly a man of his people – the supporters grew to love him and the feeling was mutual – and he never forgot his roots in the amateur game.
A bull in the scrum, about which he could talk for hours, Ayerza also boasted handling skills that set him apart from many – the cheeky little pass for Niki Goneva’s last-gasp score in the win on Montpellier sticks in the mind – and a commitment in defence which left its mark on opponents across the world game.
The Tig always had the feeling that with Marcos in the front row Tigers could be a match for anyone. He helped set the tone in the close-quarters battle upon which fortunes are based in any level of the game. Watching the tribute video published online by the club this week, even the briefest of highlights illustrate his importance to the team and his all-round abilities on the pitch.
But it is the humility and warmth of the man that will linger longest in the memory: the grimace and the wry smile as he made his way to the touchline at the end of a big shift, the warm embrace for supporters, the genuine delight after a big game or a big win, they are among the memories he leaves behind.
Tigers have had a proud tradition of front-row heroes over many, many years and the most fitting compliment for Marcos is to acknowledge his place up there with any of them. Happy retirement Marcos and all the very best for the future. You’ll always be welcome back at Welford Road.