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Increased competition boosts Tigers

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Aaron Mauger says there has been a noticeable increase in intensity at Leicester Tigers alongside the extra competition for places.

The Tigers head coach says the group of players involved in Anglo-Welsh Cup matches against Northampton Saints and Saracens issued a major statement with their performances while a number of key players have also returned to action after injury.
In recent weeks Tigers have welcomed Dom Barrow and Mathew Tait back to full fitness, while Tom Croft came through both cup ties and got gametime in the Aviva Premiership win over Bristol after having his appearances restricted by a back problem.
France international Maxime Mermoz has joined the squad as an injury dispensation signing in the absence of Manu Tuilagi and marked his home debut with the bonus-point in victory over Gloucester last Saturday.
Now Telusa Veainu and JP Pietersen have also returned and scored in the match against Bristol at Welford Road on Saturday.
“We had a couple of good weeks in the Anglo-Welsh Cup and those guys provided a spark,” said Mauger.
“The real focus for us was driving the energy and creating a more competitive environment in training and I thought that showed through in the first five minutes last Saturday. We wanted the players to go out and express themselves, get a good shape across the park and back their skills.
“I’ve noticed an increase in intensity in training because guys are genuinely competing for their spots. Just four or five weeks ago we were struggling for depth in some positions but now we have good quality and depth on the training field and it means training has been better. Competition for places is always very good.”
Tuilagi is ruled out for the rest of the season after surgery on a knee injury suffered in the game against Saracens on New Year’s Day, while Logovi’i Mulipola is also sidelined for the rest of the season with a knee injury.
“Those guys with longer-term injuries are making good progress,” added Mauger. “We’re getting bodies back.
“Marcos Ayerza looks like he’ll have an extended period on the sidelines with some issues in his back. He’s been to see a specialist to diagnose and treat that. It could be 10 or 12-week process to get him back on the field.
“But Matt Toomua is progressing very well and probably a couple of weeks ahead of schedule.”
Will Evans (ankle) and Graham Kitchener (calf) have less serious injuries, and Freddie Burns is expected to be available again next week after a head injury in the game against Gloucester last week.