Leicester Tigers’ wing options analysed

Leicester Tigers' wing options
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Transfer rumours regarding Leicester Tigers have become less frequent ever since Head Coach Steve Borthwick joined the club in 2020. However, in recent weeks there has been talk of improved Leicester Tigers’ wing options [which are already strong as they are].

Numerous reports that Bath and England’s Anthony Watson has agreed on a deal to join the East-Midlands club for next season continue. It is news that has excited fans as well as raised eyebrows in some quarters, as he will be joining an already long list of Leicester Tigers’ wing options.

It is a position that is well-stocked at Leicester with Borthwick blessed with plenty of options already, bringing different and varied qualities with them. As a result, a few people have been questioning whether Leicester Tigers’ wing options need another body added to the list and if it is a good use of their resources. When delving into their current personnel available, the Tigers are well blessed in this position, however, it is also clear that there is perfect sense behind bringing a player like Watson in.

An analysis of Leicester Tigers’ Wing Options

When analyzing Leicester Tigers’ wing options, the immediate place to start is to look at the almighty powerful yet hugely skilful Nemani Nadolo. A man who is blessed with just under 20 stone of prime Fijian beef, with a turn of pace that belies his age of 34, and handling skills that rank him amongst one of the most skilful backs in the Premiership. As a result of this, he quite understandably is a key cog in the Leicester wheel and a huge reason why they currently sit top of the league.

Many a defender can be seen with their knees chattering when Nadolo picks up the ball, as his power and pace mean he is a heavy favourite to get over the gainline with each carry. He is also a fairly prolific try-scorer as you would expect, with 8 tries from his 15 appearances this season.

Tigers love to use him off phase one ball crashing him into the midfield and generating momentum for future phases, or even better if he does crash through as he has done memorably on a couple of occasions this season. Where Nadolo is so important to Leicester is just through his mere presence. Even if he does not touch the ball, the fact he is an option ensures that he is heavily marked, allowing extra space for teammates to exploit. It is not just the tries he scores, it is also the ones he can create through his off-loading game. His is an almost unique skill-set, helped massively by bucket hands that can grip the ball one-handed and get the pass away almost untroubled.

Tigers ability to get best from Pacifica players

Nadolo is not the only Pacifica winger who is pulling up trees for Tigers this season. Hosea Saumkai, a summer signing from Japan, is another that whilst not immediately first choice, is another important Leicester Tigers wing option. Gifted with sharp acceleration and a delicious sidestep, Saumaki has racked up 9 tries from his 11 appearances since joining the club and building a rather impressive highlights reel that includes a hat-trick against Wasps in the Premiership Cup and a stunning last-minute winner away in Galway, breaking Connacht hearts in Europe. Saumaki stands at just under 17 stone, and like Nadolo, combines pace and power to devastating effect. His is a signing that has added crucial depth to the Tigers’ wing options.

In addition, Kini Murimurivalu is another flying Fijian that Steve Borthwick has at his disposal. Whilst not seen as often as may be expected, mainly due to the quality of his colleagues, and with rumours that he may be leaving the club in the Summer; Murimurivalu is another that brings pace, power and a lot of experience to the game whenever he takes the field.

 The Magician and the Wily Fox

Both Nadolo and Saumaki tend to cover the left-wing more often than not, with Murimuirvalu seen on both as well as at centre and full-back. However, on the other side, the list of Leicester Tigers’ wing options is also quite tasty.

Harry Potter and wily veteran Chris Ashton are the usual incumbents in the 14 jersey for Tigers, with both bringing different qualities to the team. Potter has had a real “breakthrough year” at Tigers, turning himself into a crucial player with his consistent high-quality performances. Potter is still only 24, and only in his second full season in English rugby, yet he now looks fully at home in his surroundings. His trademark rangey runs have seen him glide past opponents like they were not there, taking Tigers up the field in a matter of seconds.

This was on show at the start of the season away at Gloucester, as well as most recently at home to Clermont Auvergne in Europe, which saw his run and pass set up Freddie Steward and send the Welford Road crowd into raptures. Both tries are worthy nominations for the try of the season.

Ashton’s signing was one that had divided opinions when the announcement was made. However, he has made many a fan eat humble pie with his performances. He immediately endeared himself to the home crowd in his debut by making a last-ditch, try-saving tackle against Northampton Saints, and has added to that with three tries in his six appearances. He now has joined Tom Varndell at the top of the Premiership try-scoring charts, and looks a firm favourite to take the record on his own.

Ashton looks like a man fully at home in his new surroundings and is quite openly loving his rugby at Tigers. So much so, it would not be a surprise to see him stay on for another season next year and keep adding to his remarkable record.

Options a plenty; Centres and Wingers on tap at Leicester

Leicester Tigers’ wing options are also boosted with the ability of both Matías Moroni and Guy Porter to cover both centre and wing. Both are centres by trade, with both starring for Leicester in the 13 shirt. However, both have also been seen on the wing for Tigers, with Porter scoring a sensational finish away at Sale in January. Tigers would rather have both in the centre, yet their versatility is a handy aspect to have especially with the challenges caused by smaller squad numbers with the salary cap reductions. In addition, Freddie Steward has also been known to make an appearance on the wing, moving across from full-back. A trait that has also been replicated by Eddie Jones at the England level.

So why Watson? Leicester Tigers’ wing options analysed

So given all the different Leicester Tigers wing options as described, do they need Watson? Well, firstly because as an England and British and Irish Lion, he will bring tonnes of experience and quality with him. He also offers high-ball expertise and an ability to unlock defences with his majestic jinking runs and side-steps. He also brings versatility with his ability to cover both wing and full-back, a key component in a reduced squad.

Watson also offers Leicester the ability to rotate their wing options for greater use and exploit different weaknesses in their opponents. Leicester’s squad depth is a key factor in their resurgence, and Watson’s signing will provide an extra level of depth in the form of a top-quality player. Watson will likely replace Kobus Van Wyk in the squad, who never showed his true form whilst at the club. Watson will likely be on similar wages, however, be likely to showcase his qualities more often than the South African did. Given Van Wyk only appeared four times this season for Leicester, Watson even just making double figures in appearances would represent a greater use of limited Tigers’ resources.

Leicester Tigers’ wing options are varied and full of try-scoring ability with 32 scored by the five specialists named above, across all competitions. Given the space generated by a dominant pack, this side is a wingers’ dream. So it is clear to see why Watson wants to join the Borthwick revolution. From Leicester’s perspective, this would be a signing that really boosts their wing options. It would also help them reclaim their objective as the top club side both in the UK and in Europe too.

 

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