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Warm welcome for all the new boys

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One of the attractions of a new season - any season - is to see new faces run out in your beloved club shirt, no matter how much you love the guys who've already established their place.It’s always great to see new ones run out for the first time. It’s a pity, therefore, that the Tigers are away from home in Round 1, though a big home crowd will look forward to welcoming the guys back next weekend.   There are a number of new faces and, with World Cup contingent just coming back into the fold, virtually all of them are straight in at the deep end. Most of them have played in the pre-season and have had a lengthy summer to assimilate to all things Tigers and among the new men, it is Peter Betham who has made the biggest impact on the support so far. A wing with two caps for the Wallabies, Betham introduced himself with a superb try against Newcastle which showed equal parts strength and speed, as well as a good measure of awareness and an eye for an opportunity. He followed up with a simpler score against Sale, but it is his work on the ball generally that has caught the eye.   Betham is definitely a player with the skills to get a buzz going in the crowd and it will be interesting to see how that develops in the eye of stiff competition in the Aviva Premiership and in Europe.   The other signings involved in the opener at Irish are all in the pack, with Greg Bateman, Mike Fitzgerald, Mike Williams and Lachlan McCaffrey in the starting eight.   Bateman has already scored a winning try at Welford Road, though sadly it was for Exeter in last season’s LV= Cup semi-final, and we’ve seen he’s a willing ball-carrier with a size advantage over the squad’s other hookers. The fact that he is willing to come into a squad which includes internationals Tom Youngs and Leonardo Ghiraldini, as well as the up-and-coming Harry Thacker, shows something about his mentality and competitive spirit.   While Williams is a more visible ball-carrier, with what Cockers likes to call an ‘abrasive’ attitude, second row Fitzgerald seems to have slipped quietly into a vital role in the dark recesses of the tight five. He’s a physical guy too, while Cockers refers to him as the kind of player who “provides the glue in the tight five”. He’s the type of player the rest of the team will fully appreciate even if the supporters do not always see all of the hard work. Both Mikes are skilful enough, too, to fill back-row shirts and The Tig is looking forward to seeing the best of both of them. it is safe to say McCaffrey was quite a quiet addition to the squad after spending last season on a losing side at London Welsh, but he has proved both hard-working and versatile in appearances so far, with an eye-catching offload in the locker too.   There’s little chance of missing the work of Opeti Fonua in the back row. At around 22 stones, he’s difficult to avoid, which is just what Tigers want to see from him, carrying ball, dragging defenders in his wake and creating holes. After less than 40 minutes of action in the World Cup, he’ll be longing to make an early impact at Welford Road. Just so long as he allows The Tig to get out of the way first.   After that initial intake, we’re also looking forward to seeing Brendon O’Connor and scrum-half Jono Kitto, and what they can offer the team.   Some of the new signings have big boots to fill, and they know they all have high standards to live up to.