Leicester Tigers roar into another final!
Sports fans around the Europe are in for a treat tomorrow. In soccer, Manchester United take on Barcelona at Wembley in the Champions League. This is the second year in a row that the showpiece of European soccer will be staged on a Saturday. The organisers wanted to catch a larger audience, so they moved the game from Wednesday to Saturday. The move seems to have worked well.
The Champions League Final of 2010 saw Inter Milan beat Bayern Munich. More significantly, the game was apparently watched by over 170 million people. Tomorrow we see two of the biggest names in world soccer take to the pitch so one guesses that those numbers will increase significantly. The Champions League Final now commands more of an audience than the Super Bowl.
Although rugby cannot compete with soccer in terms of viewing figures, last year’s Six Nations Championship saw a record average of 4.4 million viewers per game. Leading up to this year’s World Cup in New Zealand, rugby appears to be in a healthy state in Europe. The time difference between New Zealand and Europe will hopefully not affect viewing figures.
Before we concern ourselves about the upcoming World Cup, there is the little matter of this Saturday’s Aviva Premiership Final between Saracens and my old club, Leicester Tigers.
There have been significant changes in the playing staff at Leicester Tigers since my time at the club. Friends like Luke Abraham, Brett Deacon, Jim Hamilton, Ian Humphreys, Frank Murphy, Johne Murphy, Harry Ellis, Andy Goode, Leo Cullen and Shane Jennings have all moved from the midlands outfit.
Leo and Shane have another final this Saturday for Leinster who take on Munster in the Magners League Final at Thomond Park. An unprecedented double is on the cards for the Dublin team who last week won the Heineken Cup.
Leicester Tigers ethos
Leicester Tigers is a phenomenal rugby club. There is an ethos at the club that has to be experienced to be believed. The Leicester Tigers training facilities in Oadby are second to none. The club argue that if they provide everything for the player, then the player has no excuses to under perform. This theory sees Leicester Tigers provide breakfast and lunch for their players. Of course, the food is regulated by the club’s dietitian and each player has his own dietary guidelines of what he can and cannot eat. The club also provides every player with clean kit each day. After training, players leave their dirty kit in bins provided in the dressing rooms to be washed for the next day. Brenda Hargrave has been washing the players kits for 8 years now. Leicester Tigers leave nothing to chance.
Leicester Tigers and the Welford Road Faithful
The people of Leicester passionately support their beloved Tigers. Rugby seems to overshadow everything, even soccer in the midlands county. Leicester City is a very well supported soccer club and boasts legends like Peter Shilton and Gary Lineker, whose family still run their fruit and vegetable stall in the City’s outstanding food market. The people of Leicester’s love affair with all things rugby is understandable when you consider that tomorrow marks the seventh year in a row Leicester Tigers are in the Premiership Final.
Sadly, Tigers Captain and fellow Irishman, Geordan Murphy will not take any part of tomorrow’s final. Geordy has had a tough run of injuries this season but hopefully he will be back in time to represent Ireland at the World Cup.
He has been a big loss to Leicester Tigers this season but no doubt he will deliver an inspirational speech to his fellow teammates before tomorrow’s big game. Geordy is Tigers through and through. He is loved at Leicester Tigers and rightfully so. Loyalty and honesty goes a long way at the club, qualities Murphy possesses with abundance.
Leicester Tigers young stars set to shine
It has been very satisfying to watch the progress of a few of my former colleagues. When I was at the club, Ben Youngs, Tom Croft and Dan Cole were young guys trying to break into the Leicester Tigers 1st XV. These guys had to earn their spurs playing plenty of Monday night second team games before they got a chance with the senior squad. Now they are seasoned international players and the three of them will play a massive part in England’s Rugby World Cup bid this year.
From a personal point of view, I have thoroughly enjoyed watching their progress. Each one of them have worked incredibly hard to get where they are now and fully deserve all the rewards that come their way. Hopefully that includes another Aviva Premiership Crown as Leicester Tigers players tomorrow.
Go Leicester Tigers!
No matter who you support, tomorrow is a feast of sport. Leicester Tigers take on Saracens at 3:00pm. Leinster face Munster at 5:05pm and finally Manchester United square off against the mighty Barcelona at 7:45pm.
Gavin Hickie, USA Rugby U20s Forwards Coach, is a former Ireland, Leinster and Leicester Tigers rugby player now based in California and taking rugby to the USA. He writes for RugbyMag.com and other publications when not coaching for Belmont Shore and blogging on lineoutcoach.com #busy