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New tier fulfil vital role for the future

The influence of Ellis Genge and Telusa Veainu continues to grow in the Tigers ranks
The influence of Ellis Genge and Telusa Veainu continues to grow in the Tigers ranks

It tends to be teams that have grown together that get to celebrate together, and there is an increasing influence of a new generation of players growing at the centre of the Tigers squad.

Success in sport is the result of building momentum, learning from bitter experience along the way and peaking at the right times, both individually and collectively. For examples in rugby, think about Munster’s eventual conquest of Europe, the successful Leinster and Wasps teams, or Saracens over recent seasons.

Or think back to great Tigers teams of the past, the Cup winners of the 1970s-80s and the golden period at the turn of the millennium.

It is usually easy to identify the central of experience in each – for Wheeler, Dodge and Hare in one, read Johnson, Back, Rowntree, Cockerill, Garforth, Corry and Healey in the other.

But there has to be another key group in their wake, all gaining vital top-flight experience together and capable of taking the baton when the time comes.

In the early 2000s that would have been young men like Murphy, Moody, Lloyd, Goode and Ellis. And we all know what they went on to achieve in their careers.

This current Tigers squad has an identifiable senior group in the Youngs brothers, Dan Cole and Mat Tait, with trusted experienced support from Matt Smith, Manu Tuilagi, Adam Thompstone and Graham Kitchener, all giving a sense of strength and continuity to the squad.

Behind them, there is another group of players all around the 50-appearance mark who can exert an increasing and impressive influence.

Dom Barrow, felt by many fans last season to possess all the qualities necessary for candidacy as a Tigers captain in the future, made his 50th appearance in club colours in the win over Sale Sharks last week. He is part of that group – with Telusa Veainu, Mike Fitzgerald, Ellis Genge, Brendon O’Connor and Mike Williams – of differing ages but similar experience at the club.

George Ford, too, would qualify in both sections, experienced at the top end and now on 50 appearances in two spells for the club.

All would all be on a wishlist for any club and are, crucially, in at least a second contract at Tigers. They suit the environment and possess the mentality required to be in it. Whether they lead in words or in actions, they are the fundamental to what comes next.