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Tigers ABC to Z: N is for New Zealand & the 90s

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The Tigers ABC to Z series today reaches the letter 'N' and links with New Zealand rugby, the Netherlands and the Nineties.N is for Netherlands A record seven Leicester Tigers players started a World Cup qualifying match for England against the Dutch in 1998, sharing eight of the tries in a record 110-0 rout. Neil Back scored four times, with clubmates Will Greenwood, Richard Cockerill, Martin Corry and Austin Healey also on the scoresheet. Martin Johnson was at the start of his England captaincy and Darren Garforth was the other Tigers starter, with replacement Graham Rowntree taking the club’s representation to eight. The club has since forged strong links with Dutch rugby, first with Tigers Rugby Camps at the British School of the Netherlands and now at the AAC club in Amsterdam. For more information on Tigers rugby Camps and this summer's schedule, click here.   N is for New Zealand The influence of Kiwi rugby on Leicester has been strong for generations, from Ernest Booth back in the early 20th century, to Colin Martin in the 1950s, through to legendary flanker Josh Kronfeld and on to the likes Daryl Gibson, Scott Hamilton, Craig Newby, Boris Stankovich and Aaron Mauger in more recent times, and of course World Cup winner Brad Thorn. There is also a notable Kiwi link in the story of Martin Johnson’s glorious career, beginning with a New Zealand Colts cap during his spell playing there. The All Blacks have their links with Tigers too, playing ‘A’ level and Schools fixtures at Welford Road as well as a World Cup fixture, beating Italy 31-21 in 1991. On 10 occasions, Welford Road has hosted touring All Blacks senior sides, but none famously than the 19-13 defeat by the Midlands in 1983. In their first-ever floodlit game in Britain, New Zealand faced seven Leicester players in a Midlands XV, led by captain Peter Wheeler and full-back Dusty Hare whose trusty kicking sealed the game, only the fifth time an English sides had beaten the Kiwis in almost 80 years. Six of the Tigers were to repeat the feet in an England shirt less than two weeks later. England’s previous home win over the All Blacks, as the new Tigers History Book records, was in 1936 when Leicester’s Bernard Gadney was captain.   N is for Nineties A golden era for Tigers, with a Cup Final wins in 1993 (including a Twickenham try from Martin Johnson) and ’97, further final appearances in ’94 and ’96, a European Cup Final in ’97 at the first attempt, and a league title in 1994/95 as well as the start of the historic four-in-a-row run from 1998/99.   N is for Doug Norman Hooker has been a position of strength for Tigers over the years, with Peter Wheeler, Richard Cockerill, World Cup winner Dorian West, George Chuter, Tom Youngs and Leonardo Ghiraldini just a selection of the internationals at the centre of the front row. Their heritage can be traced right back to the 1920s when Leicester-born Doug Norman began a career which included 453 first-team appearances for the club. Originally a full-back, Norman played six seasons at flanker before moving to hooker in 1927. He also organised the Leicestershire Harlequins team during the War and after retirement served as president of Leicester Tigers, Leicestershire RU and the Leicestershire Schools Union.   N is for North Stand Now the MET-Rx Stand, seating 10,000 supporters – including up to 1,000 corporate spaces – it  was opened for the 2009/10 season as the country’s second-largest single-tier stand behind only The Kop at Liverpool’s Anfield home. As a player, you leave the dressing room, cross the tunnel, descend the steps through the crowd on the terrace to be greeted by the sight of 10,000 fans directly in front of you at an iconic rugby stadium. It’s part of what makes Welford Road such a special place.