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Rugby World Cup: Eye On The Tiger

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The Rugby World Cup Final signalled the end of six weeks of action at England 2015. And we've been keeping up with the Tigers involved all of the way in our Eye On The Tiger feature.Marcos Ayerza had a memorable Testimonial Year which included a fixture for Argentina in the build-up period to the World Cup on his club turf at Welford Road and a run all the way to the semi-finals. Sadly, the Tigers prop suffered a hamstring injury on the eve of the Bronze Medal match and then saw the Pumas beaten by South Africa.   The highlight, however, would have been the stunning quarter-final victory over Ireland.   Eight Tigers players began the tournament with their national squads, with Tonga No8 Opeti Fonua the first to return to the club, earning a run-out as a second-half replacement in last game of the Kings of the North tournament at Welford Road before also playing in Round 1 of the Aviva Premiership at London Irish.   Five players – Leonardo Ghiraldini, Vereniki Goneva, Dan Cole, Ben Youngs and Tom Youngs – returned to the club at the end of the pool stages, but all were rested for the opening weekend of the Aviva Premiership season. Goneva and Tom Youngs started the Round 2 win over Harlequins on semi-final weekend with Cole introduced from the bench.   Ghiraldini and Ben Youngs are recovering from World Cup injuries, while Michele Rizzo – the first Tigers try-scorer of England 2015 – saw his tournament cut short by a knee ligament injury which will sideline him for the majority of the season.   You can see Tigers in World Cup match action in our photo galleries by clicking here.   WEEK ONE Friday: England v Fiji Dan Cole and Tom Youngs start in the England front row, Ben Youngs starts at scrum-half and wins his 50th cap. Vereniki Goneva, the vice-captain, is at centre for Fiji. Tom is on the ball at a driving maul when the referee awards a penalty try in the opening quarter – the first try of the tournament. All three of Tigers' England men are replaced during the second half, Goneva plays all 80 minutes. Saturday Tonga v Georgia No8 Opeti Fonua is not included in Tonga's matchday 23 for their tournament opener as they lose 17-10 to Georgia in the first shock of the tournament. France v Italy Leonardo Ghiraldini is named as Italy captain for a 10th time in his career in the absence of Sergio Parisse and wins his 79th Test cap. He is part of the most-capped starting front row in World Cup history alongside Matias Aguero (36) and Martin Castrogiovanni (113). Their combined total of 227 Test appearances is 12 more than the previous best when Gurthro Steenkamp, John Smit and CJ van der Linde started South Africa's 87-0 win over Namibia during RWC 2011. Tigers front row colleague Michele Rizzo is used as a second-half replacement as France win 32-10. Sunday New Zealand v Argentina Marcos Ayerza earns cap No61 as the Pumas run out at Wembley Stadium against the defending world champions. Argentina lead 13-12 at half-time but the All Blacks claim two second-half tries to take a 26-16 victory in the opening match of their title defence.   WEEK TWO Wednesday Australia v Fiji Vereniki Goneva retains his place at centre for Fiji as they face Australia just five days after their opening-round defeat by England. The Wallabies win 28-13 but miss out on a bonus point. Friday Argentina v Georgia Marcos Ayerza retains his place in the Pumas front row against a Georgia team who opened with victory over Tonga. The Pumas win 54-9. Saturday England v Wales Dan Cole, Tom Youngs and Ben Youngs all retain their starting places for England as Sam Burgess comes in for the injured Jonathan Joseph at centre and Owen Farrell replaces George Ford at fly-half. England lead 25-15 but Wales eventually take the honours 28-25 in a breathless evening at Twickenham.   Italy v Canada Michele Rizzo and Leonardo Ghiraldini start together for Italy in their Pool D game at Leeds. Hooker Ghiraldini captains the Azzurri for the second time in the tournament, while Rizzo makes his first start on the loosehead side. Rizzo claims the first Tigers points of the World Cup with a try as Italy win 23-18.   Tuesday Tonga v Namibia Opeti Fonua, Leicester’s new No8, receives his first World Cup call-up as he is named among the replacements for Tonga in their second game. He is used after just 20 minutes – the final Tigers player to see his opening action in the tournament – as Tonga score a bonus-point 35-21 victory. Among the try-scorers is Telusa Veainu who subsequently signs for Leicester.   Thursday Wales v Fiji Vereniki Goneva, making his third appearance of the tournament, lines up in the 13 shirt for the vital match against Wales at the Millennium Stadium and becomes the second Tigers try-scorer of the tournament, finishing a thrilling move for the Flying Fijians. Wales, though, come through to win 23-13. WEEK THREE   Saturday England v Australia Ben Youngs overcomes an ankle injury to take his place alongside Dan Cole and Tom Youngs in England’s starting XV, which sees a return for Jonathan Joseph, Joe Launchbury and Ben Morgan after the Wales defeat. But England are knocked out of the tournament after a 33-13 defeat.   Sunday Argentina v Tonga Marcos Ayerza retains his place in the front row as the Pumas record a 45-16 victory at the home of Leicester City FC. Opeti Fonua is used as a second-half replacement as Tonga select the oldest team in RWC history. The starting XV has an average age of 31 years and 38 days – Opeti turned 29 in May. The team is also Tonga’s most experienced RWC XV with 349 caps. Former Tiger Steve Mafi is also on the bench.   Ireland v Italy Sergio Parisse returns from injury to lead Italy as Leonardo Ghiraldini misses out with a thigh muscle injury. Tigers prop Michele Rizzo is among the replacements and joins the action after 62 minutes as Ireland triumph 16-9. Rizzo, though, suffers a knee injury and is ruled out of the rest of the World Cup. Former Tigers prop Martin Castrogiovanni’s World Cup is over too.   Tuesday Fiji v Uruguay Vereniki Goneva ends his World Cup campaign in a 47-15 win for Fiji at Milton Keynes, in his fourth successive start at centre. Fiji skipper Akapusi Qera wins his 51st cap to edge past Seremaia Bai as the country’s second-most-capped player, but he is still 20 behind Nicky Little.   Friday New Zealand v Tonga Opeti Fonua is not included in the 23 for Tonga’s last game of the campaign and makes a swift return to Welford Road for the final game in the Kings of the North.   Saturday England v Uruguay Dan Cole and Tom Youngs start their fourth successive game in England’s front row for the final Pool A game against Uruguay at the City of Manchester Stadium. Scrum-half Ben Youngs is ruled out with an ankle injury.   Sunday Argentina v Namibia Marcos Ayerza is an unused replacement as Pumas coach Daniel Hourcade makes 11 changes for the third and final game to be played at Leicester City FC stadium. The Pumas win 64-19.   Italy v Romania With Michele Rizzo ruled out of the tournament with a knee injury, Tigers colleague Leonardo Ghiraldini is also forced to sit out a second successive game with a thigh injury.   WEEK FOUR   Quarter-Finals Sunday Ireland v Argentina Marcos Ayerza is the last remaining Tigers player in the tournament and plays the opening 67 minutes of Argentina’s stunning 43-20 victory over a highly-fancied Ireland side at the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff. The Pumas score four tries and climb to fourth in the world rankings with the win.   WEEK FIVE   Semi-final Argentina v Australia Marcos Ayerza starts and plays for an hour of the semi-final as the Pumas reach the last four for the second time in their history. The Wallabies take the lead after just five minutes but Argentina stay in an open and entertaining game until Adam Ashley-Cooper completes his hat-trick in a 29-15 victory and sets up a final appearance against New Zealand.   WEEK SIX Third Place Final Argentina v South Africa Argentina coach Daniel Hourcade makes nine changes to the line-up that started the semi-final but retains Marcos Ayerza at loosehead prop. Ayerza, however, suffers a grade one hamstring tear in the last training session ahead of the game at the Olympic Stadium and his World Cup ends 24 hours early. South Africa, under former Tigers coach Heyneke Meyer, win 24-13.   Final New Zealand v Australia It is left to 2003 World Cup winner Ben Kay to represent Leicester Tigers links on the day of the Final, the former second row playing his part in the commentary team on ITV as the All Blacks win 34-17.