Hats off to the six Leicester Tigers named in England’s squad for the Rugby World Cup, though The Tig makes no excuse for cheering loudest for Dan Cole’s inclusion.
A couple of seasons ago, The Tig wrote here about all of the props who had been championed by the media to take Cole’s place in the England front row. All, though, have found him as difficult to move from the teamsheet as they do getting him off the ball.
At times, it seemed that everyone on the outside wanted to see someone else wear the No3 shirt. But players and coaches – friends and foe – were not fooled and invariably had Cole at the top of their list at tighthead.
Last season, even Eddie Jones had a look at alternatives and Cole could have been forgiven for thinking he was slipping down the pecking order.
But he was not deterred and, as a succession of rivals have come and gone, the Tigers favourite is now approaching 90 Test caps.
He won't attract many headlines but the absence of dissenting voices – even in a squad which did not really prompt any controversial column inches – tells its own story.
It should not be forgotten that he made 26 starts for Tigers in a tough season in 2018/19 and has now topped 220 first-team appearances, thus taking his top-flight rugby career well beyond 300 games.
Coley won his first England cap in February 2010. Just let that sink in for a moment.
Winning plaudits and gathering caps as a reward for top form is one thing; doing it over and over again, especially in such an attritional and technical position, is an astounding achievement.
In his 86 Test caps with England – plus three with the Lions – Coley has also put in more minutes in the front row than many of his rivals would have thought possible.
That is a tribute to his attitude, his teamwork, his quality and his durability, not to mention strength and technique, and we look forward to cheering him in his third World Cup tournament.
Ben Youngs, who is level with Coley as Leicester’s most-capped player, is also heading for a third World Cup while Ellis Genge is at the opposite end of the scale, preparing for a first.
George Ford, Manu Tuilagi and Jonny May join them in the England squad and all have reasons for wanting to make a big impact in the next few months. We hope they all do exactly that – and make the most of the platform provided by the big man at prop.