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Leicester Tigers side has potential to be truly great - Martin Crowson


A harrowing thought for those fans sick to death of Leicester Tigers appearing in finals – it looks like they will only get better.

While the Premiership's rugby players hang up their boots for the summer, one look at Leicester's squad for the 2013-14 campaign shows a side that is maturing into, potentially, a great one.

That word "great" is painfully overused by the sporting media.

But Leicester's team at the turn of the century was a great one – and the current crop has similar potential.

No, they have not achieved as much as the likes of messrs Johnson, Back, Rowntree and Healey just yet – but this is a squad brimming with potential.

A large group in the squad are all around the 26 and 27-year-old mark, meaning they have plenty left in their bodies and plenty of experience already under their belts.

The core of the squad have come through the Academy and hold the values of the club close to their hearts.

There is also a tremendous friendship between the playing group. This is a bunch of guys who enjoy spending time with each other away from the field, as much as on it.

The core of the current squad are director of rugby Cockerill's children. Youngsters who were breaking into the first team when he took charge in 2008, they have grown together under his management.

That continuity has bred success and, if Leicester can make a successful transition from Matt O'Connor to his replacements in the attack and defence coaching roles, there is no reason why this group cannot grow further and continue to dominate the league for some time to come.

Cockerill said, in the immediate aftermath of his side's 37-17 win over the Saints in the final, that he didn't think his Premiership squad had any idea just how good they are.

This is a squad that has been decimated by international call-ups this season and only hit top form in fleeting glances on their way to a Heineken Cup quarter-final and a Premiership title.

They didn't even play particularly well in the final – and they still won by 20 points.

Try looking at it this way. Leicester have turned it on this season to win at Exeter and Northampton and they blew Harlequins away in the second half of the semi-final. Apart from that, they have been business-like, dogged and often done enough in some games through sheer strength of character.

Heaven only knows what they could achieve if they had their full squad available to them all season.

There will be no big names coming to the club this summer, but Tigers have done their best business in years by getting Ben and Tom Youngs, Julian Salvi, Steve Mafi, Mat Tait, Tom Croft and Geoff Parling to sign new deals.

This squad is starting to look frighteningly good and, by the looks of this year's business, they are here to stay.

The muted reaction to another Leicester Premiership triumph was discerningly noticeable on social media last weekend.

Some of the written media, meanwhile, were more bothered about Cockerill's brief and animated discussion with the fourth official after skipper Toby Flood was knocked out of the game, than any merits of the winning side.

There was respect for Leicester – but little joy.

That's no surprise. It's boring that Leicester are so good and have made nine consecutive finals. Really boring. Manchester United's dominance of football's Premier League does not make for a good story either. And neither did the Boston Celtics basketball team's eight consecutive NBA titles from 1959 to 1966, or baseball's New York Yankees 10 titles in 16 years between 1947-62.

Tigers may have some way to go to reach that level of consistency just yet, but there is no reason to doubt they can keep on winning titles with the current squad at the club.

The rest of English rugby can expect to fear the worst for some time to come.

Leicester Tigers side has potential to be truly great - Martin Crowson

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