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Kings of Europe together again

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The heroes of Leicester Tigers' Heineken Cup victory in 2002 were reunited at Welford Road for an event at the opening of Louis Deacon's benefit year.

The squad that made history as the first to retain the title of European champions gathered for the ‘Kings Of Europe’ dinner to celebrate with Deacon who is now in his 13th year with the first-team squad.

Cup-winning captain Martin Johnson and team-mates including Austin Healey, Tim Stimpson, Darren Garforth, Leon Lloyd and Freddie Tuilagi were among those to attend the dinner in their honour.

Geordan Murphy, Richard Cockerill, Ollie Smith, Dorian West, Lewis Moody, Martin Corry, Harry Ellis, Andy Goode, Glenn Gelderbloom and Ben Kay from the Final line-up were also in attendance, with other squad members including George Chuter, Adam Balding and Peter Short. Dean Richards and John Wells, the coaching team behind the historic success, also returned to Welford Road for the evening alongside many of the backroom team.

Benefit year charities Scotty’s Little Soldiers and the Matt Hampson Foundation were also represented.

Healey described the 2002 win against Munster at the Millennium Stadium as “even more satisfying than the win in Paris because Tigers had become the team everyone wanted to beat and we knew how difficult it would be to retain the title.”

Kay hosted the event, being joined on stage by many of the key men in the team, including Garforth, Johnson, Tuilagi and Healey, to provide the stories behind the successes and tales from off the field in the most successful period in the club’s long history.

Deacon, who was just starting to establish himself in the first-team squad at that time, said he was honoured that so many of the club’s legendary players were able to attend.

“Winning the Heineken Cup for a second time was a great achievement for the club,” Deacon said.

“It was a dream come true for me to play for Leicester and that was around the time I was first coming into the team.

“I’m very proud and privileged to receive a benefit year and I’d like to thank all the guys for coming back to Welford Road for this event, and thank the supporters for coming too.”

For details of all benefit year events and merchandise, including the calendar which is available now, see the website at http://www.louisdeaconbenefit.co.uk