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Two Smiths and ten Tigers Academy graduates in between

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Tigers Academy Manager, Dave Wilks says it's "very pleasing" to see the progression of players through the club after 11 Academy graduates were included in this week's Leicester matchday squad for the Premiership Cup opener against Saracens.

At one end of the spectrum is Matt Smith, who has made 218 appearances since his debut almost 12 years ago in 2006, while at the other is his namesake Thom Smith, who will make his senior debut in today's Premiership Cup fixture after being promoted from the Academy to the Development Squad over the summer.

The two Smiths, who are not related, are joined by Harry Wells, George Worth, Fred Tuilagi, Ben White, Sam Lewis, Jordan Olowofela, Tom Hardwick, Joe Heyes, Tommy Reffell and Cameron Jordan as former Academy members in today's side and Wilks, who has worked with many of those in the early stages of their careers, is confident it will help encourage current youngsters to work harder and follow the same path.

"It's very pleasing to see," said Wilks.

"The younger guys have worked very hard for a lot of years to reach this point and the older a lads a little bit longer.

"I'm very proud of them all ... we want to see the pathway and allow the younger guys to have that real sense that there is a way through to the first team."

Fittingly, this season's Academy squad trained alongside and against this week's Tigers team at Oval Park, which Wilks says is "important" in the development of the next generation.

"Getting them to rub shoulders with experienced guys, be a part of it all is really important," he said.

"It's also vital to have the culture and standards of the senior players and squad rub off on the younger guys, including our current Academy who actually trained alongside the Premiership Cup squad this week."