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Smith reacts to 'toughest game yet' for Tigers Academy

Leicester Tigers Academy head coach Matt Smith says the young squad have been able to draw huge positives out of each of their five wins so far this season.

The Tigers cubs extended their unbeaten Under-18 League run with victory over Worcester Warriors at Welford Road last weekend, in a top-of-the-table clash between the northern conference’s two best sides.

But Smith, in his first year as head coach, told LTTV that the strength of performance in front of friends, family and Tigers supporters was just as important as the result.

“I think the pleasing thing, as always, is the performance,” he said.

“For probably two thirds of the game we were really good. Going 28 points up is tough for these young lads mentally, but there are a lot of good learnings in that middle period of the second half where we let Worcester back into the game.

“On the whole, we’re really pleased with the lads today.”

One more regular-season game remains in the academy calendar, though Smith was keen to reflect on the five to this point, rather than look too far ahead.

“This was probably our most evenly-matched [game of the season],” he continued.

“Sale away [in Round 2] was pretty tough, up there on a cold and wet Sunday afternoon, but we’re getting different learnings out of each game and we’re stretching them each week.

“Currently we’ve got more Under-17s playing than we did last year, which will hopefully stand us in good stead for next year [as well]. They’re a really tight group.

“That was something we really pushed in pre-season; to break down those barriers, those cliques. We’re all one Tigers Academy and not different schools, different age groups so that’s really pleasing as well.”

And the former Tigers centre – a veteran of almost 230 senior appearances – also revealed how he encouraged the young side to take in their historic surroundings.

“We got them to have a picture in the changing room after the game,” he added.

“I just said to them, ‘hopefully some of you will go on to play hundreds of games for the Tigers first team, but for some boys this will be there only chance of playing at Welford Road’.

“We told them to stay in there, enjoy the moment, have the pictures and speak to their mates around the experience and soak it all in.”