Belfast Telegraph

Flood ready to resume Tigers kicking duties

By Niall Crozier

Richard Cockerill, Leicester Tigers' straight-talking director of rugby, has an almost full hand of options for Saturday night's Heineken Cup Pool 5 decider against Ulster at Welford Road.

"We are hoping we can pick from as full a squad as we have had in a while and there is good competition in many areas of the team," the 43-year-old former Tigers and England hooker said.

Following three-month absences, inside-centre Anthony Allen and blind-side Steve Mafi returned to action against Benetton Treviso last weekend and both came through intact.

Allen's restoration opens up telling choices for Leicester. It enables club captain Toby Flood to switch from centre to outside-half, his preferred position.

Cockerill insisted that France-bound Flood has shaken off the groin problem which saw him relieved of the goal-kicking role in the last two matches and will be able to take up that responsibility this weekend.

While Flood was restricted, the Tigers had to play France's goal-kicking David Mele, rather than England's 2013 British and Irish Lion Ben Youngs, at scrum-half.

But with Flood seemingly having recovered fully and able to resume his off-the-tee duties as a result, he and Youngs are likely to be reunited at half-back.

"It was important for Anthony Allen to get on the field in Italy and get himself some game-time.

"His experience and knowledge is superb, and having Toby Flood back at fly-half works well for us," Cockerill said.

"Having Ant back gives us that chat and organisation. When you have played there for a long while, it becomes second nature."

And supporters of the Aviva Premiership champions will have been further cheered with Cockerill able to confirm that second row pair Ed Slater and Graham Kitchener and Samoan prop Logovi'i Mulipola are good to go, too.

But despite being spoilt for choice, Cockerill will not be tempted into doing anything too drastic ahead of Ulster's arrival in the east Midlands.

"There may be one or two changes in the 23, but there will not be wholesale changes," he promised.

And assessing the overall position, Cockerill said: "It's a huge game and we like to have those games at Welford Road. I am delighted it has come down to this to see where we end up in the quarter-finals."

* LEICESTER'S Irish export Niall Morris (pictured) says he wouldn't be surprised to see Tommy Bowe's miraculous powers of recovery parachute him straight back into Ulster's team for the shoot-out at Welford Road.

Monaghan man Bowe famously recuperated after just a fortnight to complete his role in the Lions' summer triumph in Australia, despite fears his tour would be ended by a broken hand.

And although Bowe has been officially ruled out by Ulster this week, Morris will not accept the possibility of him failing to make it until the teams run out for the most eagerly awaited clash of the Heineken Cup's final qualifying round.

"I wouldn't be surprised to see Tommy in action," he said.

"We won't take anything for granted in terms of what Ulster might do. He's an extraordinary player. It was unbelievable the way he came back on the Lions tour. Who comes back after two weeks out with a broken hand?"

Belfast Telegraph


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