Fixture: London Irish vs Leicester Tigers
Competition: Gallagher Premiership, Round 18
Date: 25th February 2023
Venue: Gtech Community Stadium
Officials: Referee: Jack Makepeace; Assistent Referee 1: Simon Harding; Assistant Referee 2: Jamie Leahy; No4: Lionel Spooner; TMO: Dean Richards; Timekeeper: Nick Edwards; Citing Officer: John Byett.
Leicester Tigers descends on the Gtech Community Stadium this Saturday evening for an encounter against London Irish in Round 18 of the Gallagher Premiership.
The Boys in Green were bolstered by a landmark 25-10 victory in the previous round of league action against Bath Rugby, their first away from home to the Blue, Black and Whites in 14 years.
Being the most efficient team in the red zone this year, Irish has either scored a try or been awarded a penalty 62% of their visits, scored tries with 37% of their visits and had 18 rucks which have lasted less than a second.
The victory extended a promising run of just one defeat in six Premiership games for the Exiles, now returning home to uphold the Gtech’s unwavering reputation after losing just once there in the league campaign.
Following a winless run of three league games, Tigers will take confidence from an important win of their own last weekend as they became the second side after the Exiles to manage a league win over Saracens, with a 24-18 final score.
In what was a battling performance against the Londoners, Tigers made the most tackles in the round with 190 and have thus far maintained their reputation as a combative and tactical team this season, averaging the most kicks per 80 minutes (35.5).
Handré Pollard trailed only Paddy Jackson in points scored last weekend with 14 to the Irishman’s 15, the influential Springbok international also registering two retained kicks and the highest rate of ball retention (24%) from restarts in the division overall.
Nevertheless, the record of the East Midlands side away from home has seen them not only lose their last four on the road in the Gallagher Premiership, but also being unable to capitalise on successive wins since September.
Irish’s last win against Saturday’s opponents in the league came all the way back in November 2020, the first game held at the Gtech Community Stadium where Declan Kidney’s men won 22-9.
The Boss- Richard Wigglesworth:
Making a record-breaking 322 Premiership appearances, Richard Wigglesworth cemented his standing as one of the league’s great exports throughout his 20-year career.
Amassing 500 career games, he lifted the Premiership trophy on seven occasions and added three European titles to his extensive résumé.
He was also capped by England 33 times, appearing in two Rugby World Cup campaigns in 2011 and 2015 where England progressed to the knockouts in the former.
He was named Interim Head Coach of the Club he made 43 appearances for in December 2022 after the departure of collaborator Steve Borthwick to England Rugby, who he is set to join at the end of the season.
One to Watch – Jasper Wiese:
Wiese gave a starring performance for his Tigers side as they beat Saracens at Mattioli Woods Welford Road in Round 17, amongst a back-row made up of Club captain Hanro Liebenberg and former Exile Olly Cracknell.
He made more carries than any other player across the round (25), eight of them breaking the gain line, and assisted compatriot Handré Pollard’s score with a penetrating run.
The back-row player also made the most metres for a forward (98), beat the most defenders of any player (eight), executed three offloads, two clean breaks, and the fourth-most tackles across the weekend (18).
The South African is no stranger to commanding performances in Tigers green, who earned his first senior call-up to the Springboks off the back of the minutes he played in his first season in the Midlands.
27-year-old Wiese has since accrued 20 international caps for his country, including against the British and Irish Lions tourists, and won the Player of the Match gong in the Premiership final last term.
He joined the team back in the 2020/21 season from the Free State Cheetahs, recently surpassing 50 appearances for Leicester and marking the occasion with a try against Clermont Auvergne in the Heineken Champions Cup.
Classic Encounter- London Irish 36-11 Leicester Tigers – 10th November 2019 – Gallagher Premiership:
Newly-promoted London Irish put Leicester Tigers to the sword with a 25-point cushion win at the Madejski Stadium to finish 36-11 back in 2019.
Irish picked up a try bonus point with a well spread scoring chart from across the squad, including efforts from Oliver Hoskins, Ben Loader and Ruan Botha in the first period.
Steven Myler also added seven points from the tee, Tigers’ Tom Hardwick slotting two place kicks of his own in the game but the Exiles came back with a hunger in the second period.
Outside backs Tom Parton and Waisake Naholo, the latter of whom finishing well on his debut, dotted down with Jonah Holmes’ effort a mere consolation in the rout in Reading.
Tries: Oliver Hoskins, Ben Loader, Ruan Botha, Waisake Naholo, Tom Parton
Conversions: Steven Myler (3), Nick Phipps
Penalties: Steven Myler
Tries: Jonah Holmes
Penalties: Tom Hardwick (2)
Leicester Tigers Interim Head Coach Richard Wigglesworth put the 24-18 win over Saracens down to “guts and determination” as his side held off a second-half fightback from the league leaders.
"It was nerve-wracking as we have been there quite a few times this season - especially recently - where we should have won games and then we lost them.
"We hung on through guts and determination.
“We actually played poorly for 45 minutes but the fight and the character of the lads got them the win.”
Wigglesworth hopes to see progression in his side’s performances in the coming weeks and see the work done in training come to fruition.
"We showed what a good team we can be in patches and that has to be the start for us, of how we approach games and how we pressure other teams, but that fell away and we never got a foothold in the game after that.
"We have not reinvented anything, hopefully you'll see in the next few weeks what we have been trying to work on.
“It was nice for that work to be rewarded with a win."