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Rugby News

The ‘Class of 2019’ – departing players confirmed by Murphy

Leicester Tigers head coach Geordan Murphy has confirmed the players who will leave the club at the conclusion of the 2018/19 season.

Matt Smith and Mat Tait headline the Class of 2019, after announcing their retirements from professional rugby.

Matt Toomua, who made 41 appearances for the Tigers since debuting in October 2016, has returned to Australia to join Super Rugby side Melbourne Rebels in a bid to gain selection to this year’s Rugby World Cup in Japan after being granted an immediate release earlier this week.

Graham Kitchener (Worcester Warriors), Mike Williams (Bath Rugby) and Will Evans (Harlequins) will remain in the Premiership, with the trio’s moves confirmed earlier this season.

There is a lot more that people contribute to away from the fixtures each weekend while at the club and I commend each of the departing players for what they have given

Tigers head coach Geordan Murphy

In addition to those six members of the senior squad, the club will also farewell Brendon O’Connor, Valentino Mapapalangi, Joe Ford, Fred Tuilagi and Charlie Thacker.

Meanwhile, Gareth Owen will join Newcastle Falcons after two seasons in the East Midlands and Mike Fitzgerald will make the move to Japan to join the Kamaishi Seawaves.

Front-row trio Campese Ma’afu, David Feao and Ross McMillan also move on after one year in Leicester.

In addition, the club will farewell Tigers development squad hooker Harry Mahoney.

Leonardo Sarto and Clayton Blommetjies, who joined the Tigers mid-season as injury cover in the squad, will also depart following the clash with Bath next Saturday, May 18.

Murphy commended each of the departing players for their contribution to the club over their varied times in Leicester.

“We have a mixed bag of experience leaving us this season, who have all given their all during their time in the Tigers shirt,” he said.

“Some of those leaving us have achieved a lot on the pitch, including Premiership wins for Mat Tait and Graham Kitchener, and then of course Matt Smith who leaves with seven trophies to his name and a legacy of commitment to the club second to none over his fourteen seasons in the top squad.

“Those three are easy to point out in terms of silverware won, but there is a lot more that people contribute to away from the fixtures each weekend while at the club and I commend each of the departing players for what they have given in terms of effort, commitment and knowledge while a member of our proud club.

“I wish all of them the best in their next chapters, whether it be as players or life after rugby, and am sure the fans will join me in thanking them for their contributions to our proud club.

“They have all joined a special group of people who can say they have played for this club and, as we say in Leicester, once a Tiger, always a Tiger.”

Supporters can farewell the departing players when Leicester Tigers take on Bath in the final fixture of the 2018/19 Gallagher Premiership season at Welford Road on Saturday, May 18, with the squad to do a lap of honour of the pitch following the full-time whistle.