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Match Preview: Tigers final pre-season test

Leicester Tigers welcome London Irish to Welford Road for the final pre-season fixture of the 2018/19 schedule on Friday evening in what will be the first senior fixture at the historic home of the Tigers Family in 119 days.

Tigers last played at Welford Road in the penultimate fixture of their 2017/18 season against Newcastle Falcons in April, which saw Matt O'Connor's men suffer a last-gasp loss before finishing the season with a 22-point away win against Sale Sharks the following week.

The 2018/19 pre-season has so far seen mixed results for the Tigers squad with a first up win over Cardiff Blues a fortnight ago followed by a loss to Benetton Rugby in Treviso last Friday night, with both matches allowing the Leicester coaching staff to blood several youngsters and new additions to the group this season.

Ten Tigers will make their first appearances for the new year on Friday against The Exiles with England summer tourists Ben Youngs, George Ford and Jonny May all included in the starting side and fellow internationals Dan Cole, Manu Tuilagi, Sione Kalamafoni, Valentino Mapapalangi and Tom Youngs also set for their first hit-outs in the 2018/19 campaign.

New recruits Will Spencer and David Feao will also make their first appearance of the pre-season schedule in what doubles as the duo's first time in Tigers colours at Welford Road. The pair are joined by David Denton, Kyle Eastmond, Gaston Cortes, Campese Ma'afu and Ross McMillan who will run out in front of the Tigers Family for the first time at home after being included as part of a 31-man squad.

Irish will arrive at Welford Road with four former Tigers in their ranks including Pat Cilliers, who joined the London club over the summer from Leicester, and also looking to continue their transition under the new management of former Ireland national coach Declan Kidney.

Irish will compete in the Championship in 2018/19 after suffering relegation at the conclusion of last season, however remain a threat and showed just how much with a four-point, 32-28 loss away to Munster last weekend in their only pre-season fixture so far.

Tigers forwards coach Mark Bakewell recognised the threat when he spoke to LTTV earlier in the week, while admitting that the squad's focus was on using the final pre-season fixture to continue preparations for the Gallagher Premiership opener against Exeter Chiefs on Saturday, September 1.

"We won't underestimate the challenge London Irish will bring, they will have a point to prove" he said.

"For us, this Friday night is about the integration of our internationals and a couple of guys returning from injury. But, ultimately, it's about building a platform where we can make a genuine assessment leading in to Exeter."

Speaking about the pre-season schedule so far, Bakewell was positive about the progress made and admitted that the focus had been largely on perfecting the basics, which let the side down in crucial moments during last season.

"The pre-season has been really good so far," he said.

"Keeping it simple has been the theme for us this pre-season ... because last season was about making silly errors at the wrong time, which undid us."

Entry to the first Welford Road game of the new season, against London Irish on Friday night, is included with a 2018/19 Tigers Season Ticket. Explore the offerings and find the best fit for you online at LeicesterTigers.com/seasontickets.

If you can't make the game follow all the action from Welford Road on the Tigers App with Matchday LIVE.