There are few moments in rugby more special than a senior team debut. At any level of the game, it is a memorable moment.
Most club players can recall date and time of their debut First XV game – accompanied by the mental and physical scars of mixing it with the big boys – and the same goes for the professionals.
Interviewers asking even the biggest names about their greatest memories will invariably receive answers including a club debut and an international debut.
Recently, The Tig has heard exactly that kind of comment from Tiger chairman Peter Tom – “a moment no one can take away from you” – and coach Brett Deacon. Their words will be echoed by all of the young prospects called into the picture over the last season or so.
The beauty of a debut is that it is an occasion shared. Supporters love that "I was there moment" though this has to be done remotely in these strange new times.
The Tig pondered exactly that in looking at the teamsheet for the first four games of this restarted season.
So far this month the list of debutants has included Matt Scott, Luke Wallace and Zack Henry at Exeter; Blake Enever, Guy Porter and Harry Potter against Bath; and Nemani Nadolo of course in the win over Irish. Add in Ryan Bower’s ‘second debut’ and first senior appearances for some of the younger newcomers, and that’s quite a list from just four games in this extraordinary 'mini' season.
The Tig started thinking about those who have gone before and, in stream-of-consciousness order, the debuts that have stuck in the memory for all sorts of different reasons:
- The legendary call for Marcos Ayerza to come out of pre-match hospitality suite to join the bench at Bath
- Freddie Tuilagi and the Freddie wigs on the Terrace
- Tom Youngs, at centre of course, in a Cup game at Northampton as part of a nursery team captained by Matt Cornwell
- David Mélé scoring a cheeky try – his first one since he'd scored against Tigers for Perpignan.
- Ben White thrown on as a 17-year-old to put in at a defensive scrum against Quins
- Brett Deacon joining older brother Louis for his only ever appearance as a second row
- Castro versus reigning champions Sale on opening day in 2006/07
- The Classic All Blacks’ meeting with Manu
- Ben Youngs as a 17-year-old and George Ford as an even younger teenager
- Young lock Tom Price being carted off in an ambulance, though thankfully there was no lasting harm done
- Academy boys Sam Harrison and Jimmy Stevens playing in Europe before they’d played a domestic league game
- Dan Hipkiss and Sam Vesty in an Orange Cup game, against Toulouse?
- Owen Finnegan’s first and also last game in a win at Bristol
- The Fijian, Vunibaka, scoring a hat-trick but not playing for the club again
- Toby Flood scoring a try on a season’s opening day at Gloucester
- JP Pietersen on another night at Gloucester and the lost last-gasp chance of a debut try
- Niall Morris running in two tries against newly-promoted Exeter Chiefs
There's 20 without a prompt, proving the point about special occasions and shared memories.
No doubt this one random list will have inspired your own recollections too. So which memories will linger longest from the long list of newcomers in 2019/20?