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Leicester chief Richard Cockerill expecting a fired up London Irish


Richard Cockerill is expecting a tough battle in Leicester's opening clash

Richard Cockerill is expecting a tough battle in Leicester's opening clash

Richard Cockerill is expecting a tough battle in Leicester's opening clash

Leicester director of rugby Richard Cockerill believes London Irish will be fired up to impress new boss Tom Coventry when the sides meet in the Aviva Premiership on Sunday.

Tigers finished third in the table last season but were thrashed by Bath in the semi-finals and could face a fight to reach the top four this time around.

Harlequins, Wasps and Exeter have all strengthened in a bid to crack the elite, with Chiefs signing two of Leicester's key players in Geoff Parling and Julian Salvi over the summer.

It means the competition is likely to be fiercer than ever and all eyes will be on this weekend's opening round of fixtures to see which sides are ready to step up.

The priority for Irish remains survival but there is a sense of optimism under new head coach Coventry, who was appointed in January and has been working with his new squad since July.

"Everyone wants a good start to the season, and they'll certainly be up for it with a new coach and playing at home on the opening weekend," Cockerill told the club's official website.

"Irish always have good attacking threats, they have good ball-carriers as well. We know we have to get our game right when it really counts, starting with this Sunday."

Leicester will hand league debuts to five players with summer arrivals Peter Betham, Greg Bateman, Mike Williams, Mike Fitzgerald and Lachlan McCaffrey all making the Tigers' starting line-up.

Back-rower Opeti Fonua and scrum-half Ben White could also make their first appearances for the club off the bench.

Irish are boosted by the return of Tonga prop Halani Aulika from the World Cup while new signing Matt Symons starts in the second row.

"Selection for the first match of the season is always tough and this is no exception," Coventry told the official club website.

"The players have trained and prepared well for this match and after a long pre-season, cannot wait to get out and play in front of our home supporters.

"Leicester provide us with a significant challenge and we look forward to representing the Club and our supporters with pride."