Over the past 15 years, talking about the possibility of Leicester winning the Premiership would be a mere formality, having been crowned champions 7 of the past 15 years, and reaching the final on a number of other occasions.
Although their recent 4 try performances against Newcastle and Exeter look to have set Leicester on course for a play-off position, their consistency across the season would put them at distant odds to claim the title ahead of Saracens, Northampton or even the emergence of a competitive Bath side.
But come the final at Twickenham, I would not be surprised at all to see the Tigers lift yet another trophy. Until this point, Leicester have just about clung onto the coat tails of the early runners with on reflection, a weakened side. But having watched 2 of Leicester’s most recent games, and the news of the impending returns of some notable injury absentees, Leicester are hitting some form that will scare the top 2 sides.
And then Saturday’s game happened. Not only did Leicester pull off a win against Midlands rivals Northampton, but away from home, putting a blemish on the Saints pretty impressive Franklins Garden form for this season. Serious championship form that.
After just staying in touch of the top four all season, Leicester have been able to call on some serious cavalry. The return of Geoff Parling will bolster the pack, while the underrated defensive lynchpin and wrecking ball centre combo of Anthony Allen are back in business to transform Leicester’s back play. The return of Mr Tuilagi is a double boost for the Tigers. Not only do they profit from being able to select a British Lion, but it also allows Niki Goneva to revert to his superior position of the wing. Every time I’ve watched Goneva this season he has been absolutely electric, and is far and away the best winger that Tigers have had for a number of years for me. They must do all they can to keep Goneva at Welford Road and away from Castres, the Premiership would be poorer for his loss. Couple this with the somewhat less dodgy form of late from Ben Youngs, along with the rise to prominence of Owen Williams at 10, Leicester look like they could have a go at cutting up anyone out wide.
But as always with Leicester, it is will come down to the pack, and in particular, the modern day ‘ABC’ club. Although shorn of the highly influential Dan Cole, Leicester can still field a frighteningly strong front row of Marcos Ayerza, Tom Youngs and Logi Mulipola. And I’d fancy these 3 to take on any of the other front rows that they will face in the play-offs. For all of Saracens power ball style of play, their regular starting props of Mako Vunipola and Matt Stevens are more revered for their ball carrying and handling than work in the tight, where the Northapton 1 and 3, although good players are a far cry from that quite frightening combination of Mujati and Tonga’uhia.
You always have this feeling with Leicester. Even if they were currently languishing in middle table at this late stage of the season, you would still fancy them to somehow sneak a top 4 spot, no matter how poor their form had been. Northampton and Sarries would have been afraid of Leicester all season. And now we are seeing why.