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Tig Blog

League reveals return of the midweek match

Many years ago the midweek fixture was condemned to the sepia-tinted pages of rugby history alongside lettered shirts, black high-top boots and dangerous front rows.

But with the announcement of the new timetable for the remainder of the current season – it’s still 2019/20 if anyone is keeping count – the midweek match is back.

After a trip to Exeter, Tigers have back-to-back home games against Bath and then London Irish, the latter fitted into a Wednesday on a four-day turnaround to assist in getting the full remaining schedule in before the end of October.

The media says there will be another two midweek fixtures in the regular season before teams reach the knockout stages in October.

Like Friday nights under lights, there is something deeply nostalgic, romantic even, about midweek games. The Tig, for one, will be looking forward to it.

The Tig’s most recent memories of proper midweek games include visits from Australia (when Tigers DID wear lettered shirts) and the New Zealand Maori back in 2011 and 2013.

The last domestic midweek game, if memory serves, was back in 2006/07 when Premiership Rugby squeezed an extra round in over Christmas – didn’t we all! The reasons have not remained in the memory but it was probably something to do with allowing some time for England’s preparations for the defence of the world title in France that summer.

That year, surprise league leaders Bristol came to Welford Road on a Friday evening just before Christmas, made a raft of changes to their first-choice team and lost by six tries to Pat Howard’s Tigers.

Then on the Tuesday after Christmas, Tigers went to London Irish but lost top spot after defeat.

As a footnote, the confusion over dates and times that season was not eased the following week when Tigers played on a Monday, seeing in New Year’s Day with a home win over Saracens.

Speaking of Sarries, the tributes have flowed since Brad Barritt announced this would be his last season there.

He has been at the centre, literally, of their successes, noted for his leadership and his defence. The Daily Telegraph’s Rugby Nerd newsletter produced a table to support his all-round abilities and one stat stuck out because it included one of the blog’s favourite sons.

Barritt leads Premiership centres in terms of all-time appearances, carries, turnovers and tackles since his top-flight debut in 2008. No one gets close, in fact, in terms of tackles and turnovers.

But on tackle success, his score of 92 per cent is matched by one man.

That man is Leicester’s Matt Smith. Always said he was a good ’un.