Belfast Telegraph

Skipper Youngs is sure Tigers can finally pounce in Belfast

Menacing Tiger: Manu Tuilagi’s power will cause problems
Menacing Tiger: Manu Tuilagi’s power will cause problems

By Michael Sadlier

When it comes to that heady combination of off-field turmoil and on-field under-achievement, Leicester Tigers seem to have managed to corner a sizeable part of the market, even though Ulster can claim to be a leading brand in this regard as well.

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The Tigers' fall from grace has been part of the overall picture for quite a while now as the once dominant side containing Martin Johnson, Neil Back et al from the start of the century - they won four Premiership titles on the bounce and back-to-back European Cups - continues to overshadow most of what has occurred since their pomp.

The coaching situation has been a case in point. Since Richard Cockerill's sacking in January 2017, the Tigers have worked their way through Aaron Mauger, Matt O'Connor - with the latter removed last month after the first Premiership game of this season - and now have Geordan Murphy on an interim basis.

There is no denying that this is a hugely challenging role for former Ireland international and long-serving Tigers player Murphy - who was already on the coaching staff - with the overriding need to bring some stability to a club which has been gradually slipping further towards mediocrity.

In this environment, it is hardly surprising then that they have also managed to haemorrhage talented players over the last few years while singularly failing to get the best from marquee members of the squad such as the injury-jinxed Manu Tuilagi.

Though Murphy has overseen two Premiership wins from their last two games - at home to Sale and away to Northampton - the pragmatic approach would be to prioritise the Tigers' domestic season with Europe not likely to be rewarding with the memory still fresh of them propping up an admittedly challenging Pool Four, also containing beaten finalists Racing 92, last time out.

Tigers have also failed to register a single win in four visits to Belfast, something skipper Tom Youngs would like to rectify.

"We know how challenging it is to try and get anything out of the game," he said.

"But we have had two good wins recently so there is a little bit of confidence there."

It's no secret that the visitors will use their formidable scrum to attack Ulster and hope that hooker Youngs and prop Dan Cole can be at the forefront of that plan.

At half-back, the Ben Youngs and George Ford combination look well set to run the Tigers' likely game-plan of tactical kicking or launching Tuilagi down Billy Burns' channel.

And with just-returned Wallaby Matt Toomua poised on the replacements bench, the Tigers have all the power at their disposal to finally end their dismal Belfast record.

Belfast Telegraph


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