Leicester Tigers

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Leicester Tigers
Full name Leicester Football Club
Nickname(s) Tigers
Founded 1880; 141 years ago (1880)
Location Leicester, England
Ground(s) Welford Road (Capacity: 25,800; eventually expanding to 30,000)
Chairman Peter Tom
Director of Rugby Richard Cockerill
Coach(es) Aaron Mauger
Captain(s) Ed Slater
League(s) Aviva Premiership
2014–15 3rd
1st kit
2nd kit
Official website

Leicester Tigers (officially Leicester Football Club) is an English rugby union club based in Leicester, England that plays in the Aviva Premiership.

Leicester are the most successful English club since the introduction of league rugby in 1987, a record 10 times English champions – 4 more than either Bath or Wasps, and last won the Aviva Premiership title in the 2012/2013 season. Leicester have also appeared in a record nine successive Premiership finals, from 2005 to 2013. The Tigers have never finished a league season below 6th position, and are one of only four teams (along with Gloucester, Bath and Wasps) never to have been relegated from the top division. Leicester are also the only English side to have qualified to play in every European Rugby Champions Cup (and the Heineken Cup which it replaced) in which English teams have participated, and are also the most successful English side in Europe; back-to-back champions in 2001 and 2002 and losing finalists in 1997, 2007 and 2009.


Early years

E. Redman, Leicester captain in 1895.

Leicester Football Club was formed in a meeting held in the city's George Hotel in August 1880 by the merger of three smaller teams: Leicester Societies AFC, Leicester Amateur FC and Leicester Alert.[1] That October, the new club wore black for their first game against Moseley at the Belgrave Cricket and Cycle Ground.

It was not until five years or so later that the nickname "Tigers" was first used, the Leicester Daily Post reporting that "the Tiger stripes were keeping well together". The origin of the nickname is uncertain, but it may have come from the Leicestershire Regiment (which became in 1946 The Royal Leicestershire Regiment). The Regiment had received the nickname 'Tigers' after serving in India, and from 1825 had worn a cap-badge with a 'royal' tiger to mark the connection. An alternative theory is that the team wore a brown and yellow/orange striped shirt. In their early years, they were also known as "The Death or Glory Boys".

The now-famous scarlet, green and white jerseys were not introduced until 1891, although these were in a vertical stripe formation until the distinctive hoops were first worn in September 1895.

They moved in 1892 to their present ground at Welford Road, Leicester. Having won the Midlands Cup every year from 1898 to 1905, they dropped out "to give other teams a chance".[2]

In the 1926/27 season, Leicester started using letters to identify their forwards, expanding the practice by 1931/32 to the whole team.

Post war

In 1947 local winger Harry Sibson joined from Aylestonians and went on to play 183 games. Harry is credited for the introduction of the new offside law. Harry went onto fulfil many roles at Leicester Tigers including club secretary and club president.[3][4][5]

With the arrival of Chalkie White in 1968, things began to improve significantly. He was a very progressive coach who demanded high standards of fitness and tactics. His unique style of coaching brought success on the pitch, and with that success came increased attendances.

Leicester started to grow as a club towards the end of the 1970s. At the start of the decade, the club had just 600–700 members and gates were less than 1,000. By 1980, the Tigers had reached their first cup final, and the club was on its way towards a substantial period of growth.

During the 1970s the team played in front of a packed stadium during the annual Boxing Day Barbarians event (in contrast with the usual 750–2,000 spectators). With the advent of professionalism in the mid-1990s, with league fixtures being played over the Christmas period, regular games against the Barbarians have stopped.

A first Twickenham final appearance ended in defeat by Gloucester in the John Player Cup in 1978, but the Tigers won the next three against Moseley (15–12), London Irish (21–9) and Gosforth (22–15). This meant they were allowed to keep the trophy. The fifth final was a loss to Bristol in 1983.

In August 1980, Leicester became the first English club to go on a tour in the southern hemisphere, where they played six games in Australia and Fiji to mark the club's centenary.

In the 1980s, the club still enjoyed the benefits of amateur rugby, with nights away and Easter tours, although off the pitch the Tigers were taking their first steps towards corporate sponsorship. When they beat Waterloo on the last day of the 1987/88 season, the Tigers became England’s first official champions.

Nineties and Dean Richards Era

The early 1990s saw the emergence of Leicester's renowned ABC Club, so called because of the letters the front row players wore on their backs, with Graham Rowntree, hooker Richard Cockerill and Darren Garforth.

Leicester began one of the greatest winning streaks of any team. This streak started when a young pack helped Leicester to defeat Harlequins 23–16 in the 1993 cup final. They were English champions again in 1995, won the Pilkington Cup in 1997 (9–3 against Sale) and were the first English team to get to the Heineken Cup final before losing to Brive in the same year. In the 1996 cup final, Tigers lost to Bath (which was just finishing its own great domination of English rugby) after Steve Lander gave a contentious penalty try to in the last minute which sealed their victory. After the match Neil Back pushed over Lander landing himself a six-month ban.

From 1999 to 2002, under the captaincy of Martin Johnson and the management of Dean Richards, who became Director of Rugby for the club in February 1998, they won four consecutive Premiership titles and the first Zürich Championship play-offs,[6] bringing their total of league championships to six — tied with Bath for most wins.

They also won the Heineken Cup in 2001 and 2002 — Leicester defeated Stade Français (34–30) in 2001, and Munster (15–9) in 2002.

Leicester during this time had a very good home record; they went 57 games unbeaten at home in a period that stretched from 30 December 1997 to 30 November 2002 and included 52 successive wins. During these four seasons Leicester lost only 14 games out of the 92 they played.

In the 2003 Rugby World Cup, the club had seven representatives in the winning England squad: Martin Johnson (captain), Neil Back, Martin Corry, Ben Kay, Lewis Moody, Dorian West and Julian White. However while these players were away, Leicester's form suffered and they were 11th in the league and dumped out of the Heineken cup in the group stages when they decided to sack Dean Richards who was succeeded by the forwards' coach John Wells.

Post Richards era

Martin Johnson and Graham Rowntree during the friendly match vs. Bath in 2007.

In John Wells' first full season in charge of the team Leicester finished the regular season top of the league, also progressing to the semi-final of the Heineken cup before defeat to Toulouse at the Walkers Stadium. In Martin Johnson and Neil Back's last game for Leicester they lost the Premiership Final to Wasps. After this game John Wells left Leicester to take up a position in the RFU's coaching academy, eventually rising to England forwards coach. He was succeeded by Pat Howard

In 2005–06, the Tigers finished second to the Sale Sharks in the league before losing to the same team in the Premiership final. They again proceeded to the knockout stages of the Heineken Cup, again they lost at the Walkers Stadium to Bath. In the new Anglo-Welsh Cup Leicester won their group but lost in the semi-finals to Wasps at the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff, Wales.

Over the summer of 2006 the core of a new pack was recruited especially Jordan Crane, the Number 8, who arrived from Leeds; Martin Castrogiovanni joined from Calvisano and Marcos Ayerza joined from domestic rugby in his native Argentina. Tom Croft also made his debut this season after coming through the club's academy system.

Leicester won their first piece of silverware for five years on 15 April 2007, beating the Ospreys 41–35 with tries from Tom Varndell, Tom Croft, Ben Kay and Alesana Tuilagi to win the EDF Energy Cup at Twickenham Stadium. This was quickly repeated with Premiership success on 12 May at Twickenham with a 44–16 win over Gloucester. However Leicester failed to win an unprecedented treble, by losing the Heineken Cup Final at Twickenham on 20 May to Wasps.

It was announced on 28 December 2006 that the head coach Pat Howard would leave the club at the end of the season, to return to his native Australia.[7] He was succeeded by the then-head coach of Argentina, Marcelo Loffreda after the 2007 Rugby World Cup.[8] Loffreda guided Leicester through the group stages of the EDF cup to the semi final where they defeated Wasps in a knock-out game for the first time since the 1980s. This set up a rematch of the previous years final against the Ospreys, which Leicester lost. After losing all away games in the Heineken Cup that season Leicester failed to progress to the quarter finals. In the league Leicester struggled until a last minute last day try by Tom Varndell beat Harlequins to set up a rematch of the previous seasons Premiership Final against Gloucester. Once again Leicester were successful late on, this time utilising Andy Goode's kicking to secure a last minute victory. In the final they had no such luck losing to perennial rivals Wasps. After this final; despite guiding Leicester to two Twickenham finals and only being in the job 7 months Loffreda was sacked.

Cockerill takes the reins

Heyneke Meyer was the board's choice to replace Loffreda, however unfortunate family circumstances led to his resignation. Richard Cockerill took over until the end of the season, having guided Leicester to a home Heineken Cup quarter final against Bath. He was appointed head coach on 17 April 2009[9] and promoted to Director of Rugby on 19 July 2010[10] following Leicester's second Premiership title in as many years.

On Sunday 3 May 2009 Leicester Tigers made history in their Heineken cup semi-final against Cardiff Blues when a place kicking competition was required to decide the outcome for the first time. The teams were drawing 26–26 after normal time and there was no score during extra time. Leicester won this 7–6 after backrow forwards Craig Newby and Jordan Crane both succeeded with their kicks at goal.

In the 2009 Premiership final Leicester beat London Irish (10–9), with a try from Crane and 5 points from the boot of Dupuy. The following week Leicester lost the Heineken Cup final in Edinburgh to Irish province Leinster, containing former Leicester favourites captain Leo Cullen and openside Shane Jennings.

On Friday 6 November 2009 Leicester hosted the world champion Springboks [11] to mark the opening of the new stand on the north side of the ground. In a tight and compelling match a young Leicester side triumphed 22–17, with a try from Lucas González Amorosino and 17 points from scrum half Ben Youngs.

Tigers retained their Premiership title on 30 May 2010 as they defeated Saracens 33-27, the crucial late score coming from Dan Hipkiss. This is the most recent time that a Premiership title has been retained.

In more recent years European success has been harder to come by, Tigers have neither won a European knock out game nor hosted one since 2009. Domestic success has continued with Tigers reaching Premiership finals but losing in 2011 and 2012.

In 2013 Tigers won their record extending 10th English title defeating local rivals Northampton Saints 37-17 at Twickenham despite losing fly half Toby Flood to injury in the first half. Tries from Niall Morris, Graham Kitchener, Manu Tuilagi and Vereniki Goneva sealed the match, with the final three tries coming after Northampton hooker Dylan Hartley's red card for verbally abusing referee Wayne Barnes.

Leicester hold the record for most Premiership titles (10), the most consecutive Premiership Final appearances (9) and the most Play off appearances (11). They were the first team to achieve an away semi-final victory in the Premiership play-offs (against Gloucester at Kingsholm on 18 May 2008).

Premiership play-offs

Leicester Tigers playing against Leinster in 2008.

Leicester have participated in the last 11 Premiership Play Offs, reaching 9 consecutive finals between 2005 and 2013. The run ended when Leicester lost to a late Northampton try in the 2014 semi finals.

Leicester finished first in the league table in 2004/05 going directly to the final; in Martin Johnson & Neil Back's last game for the club they lost 43-19 to Wasps. The following season Tigers finished second beating London Irish 40-8 in their first ever Play Off semi final before once again losing the final, this time to Sale who won 45-20 in wet conditions.

On 5 May 2007, Leicester defeated Bristol 26–14 to reach the Premiership play-off final for the third consecutive year, where they defeated Gloucester 44–16 at Twickenham to win their first ever title via the playoffs.[12] On 18 May 2008 Leicester defeated Gloucester at Kingsholm to become the first team to win a Premiership semi-final playoff away from home. However this season also ended in defeat as Wasps won their sixth title, fourth via the play-offs.

In 2008/09 Tigers again topped the table and faced Bath in the semi final winning 24-10. The final was the closest yet, Tigers defeated London Irish by a single point thanks to Jordan Crane's try and five points from Julien Dupuy. A year later Richard Cockerill's side retained the trophy with a 33-27 win against Saracens F.C., Dan Hipkiss scored the decisive try in the closing stages. Together they make Leicester the last team to retain the Premiership.

Tigers reached the 2010/11 final for a rematch with Saracens which saw a record breaking 7 minutes overtime played during which Leicester went through 32 phases camped on the Saracens try line before conceding a penalty which awarded Saracens their revenge for the previous years defeat.

2011/12 saw Tigers finish second in the table and face Saracens in the semi finals at Welford Road. Inspired by George Ford and with tries from Steve Mafi and Alesana Tuilagi Leicester were able to beat the Londoners 24-15 to meet Harlequins in the final. Ford was unable to reproduce his semi final form and Nick Evans and Chris Robshaw inspired Quins to their maiden Premiership triumph.

Leicester finished 2nd in 2012/13 season playing Harlequins in a 33–16 win for the Tigers, to secure a place in the final and their ninth successive Premiership final, as well as this being their 13th Successive Semi-Final win in all competitions. Defeating Northampton 37–17 at the 2012/2013 final means that Tigers have also achieved a record tenth Premiership title.[13]

These nine consecutive finals is a record for consecutive appearances in a play-off final under the current format.


The club plays its home games at Welford Road Stadium. The ground was opened in 1892 and the first stands accommodated 1100 spectators. The clubhouse was built on the Aylestone Road end in 1904, giving the curious situation of Welford Road Stadium's address being on the Aylestone Road. The Crumbie & Members' Stands were built just before and just after the First World War respectively. A stand was built at the Welford Road end in 1995, initially called the Alliance & Leicester Stand it is now known as the Goldsmiths Stand. The total ground capacity is currently 24,000 after the north stand (Members' Stand originally) was redeveloped in 2008, see below.

Currently under construction is a new all seating stand replacing the original clubhouse and an 1980s extension at the Aylestone Road end. Costing £6.7m the new stand will have 2,917 spaces for general admittance & 190 executive seats.[14] Replacing a temporary stand housing 992 places it will bring the capacity of the stadium to 26,000.

Before redevelopment of Welford Road began in 2008 the club explored many other options. On 23 November 2004 the club announced that it had entered into a 50–50 joint venture with the city's main football club, Leicester City, to purchase City's current ground, Walkers Stadium. If the purchase had gone through, the Tigers would have surrendered their lease on Welford Road and moved into Walkers Stadium.[15] However, after several months of talks, the two clubs could not agree as to which side would have priority at Walkers Stadium, and they ended any ground share plans in July 2005.[16]

On 11 June 2007 the club announced plans that it was working with AFL, who were involved in redeveloping Manchester United's Old Trafford, for a redevelopment plan which would raise the capacity from 17,498 to 25,000 by 2011.[17]

On 20 February 2008 Leicester Tigers received planning consent for the £60million redevelopment of their Welford Road home.The first phase of the development would include space for 10,000 supporters in a new North Stand (Granby Halls side), taking capacity up from 17,498 to 24,000. After full renovation it will have a capacity of above 30,000.[18]

In the summer of 2008 work began on the construction of the new North Stand – then called the "Caterpillar Stand" after the club's main sponsor, Caterpillar Inc. The work was completed for the first home game of the 2009/10 season against Newcastle Falcons. The stand has room for 10,000 spectators along with a 1,000 seat hospitality suite. On the ground floor is the Final Whistle bar where no ticket is required for entry.[19]

At the end of the 2008/09 season three home games were played at the Walkers Stadium due to demolition of the old north stand. These saw Tigers play Bath twice, a loss in the Heineken Cup quarter finals and a victory in the Premiership Play Off semi finals as well as a 73-3 demolition of Bristol. Tigers have also played two Heineken Cup Semi Final games at the Walkers Stadium, against Toulose and Llanelli Scarlets, but the ground was designated as a neutral venue for both.

Current squad

2015-16 Note: Flags indicate national union as has been defined under WR eligibility rules. Players may hold more than one non-WR nationality.

Player Position Union
Greg Bateman Hooker England England
Leonardo Ghiraldini Hooker Italy Italy
Harry Thacker Hooker England England
Tom Youngs Hooker England England
Matías Agüero Prop Italy Italy
Marcos Ayerza Prop Argentina Argentina
Fraser Balmain Prop England England
Riccardo Brugnara Prop Italy Italy
Dan Cole Prop England England
Logovi'i Mulipola Prop Samoa Samoa
Tiziano Pasquali Prop Italy Italy
Michele Rizzo Prop Italy Italy
Aniseko Sio Prop Samoa Samoa
Dominic Barrow Lock England England
Sebastian De Chaves Lock South Africa South Africa
Michael Fitzgerald Lock New Zealand New Zealand
Graham Kitchener Lock England England
Ed Slater Lock England England
Mike Williams Flanker Zimbabwe Zimbabwe
Tom Croft Flanker England England
Lachlan McCaffrey Flanker Australia Australia
Brendon O'Connor Flanker New Zealand New Zealand
Jordan Crane Number 8 England England
Opeti Fonua Number 8 Tonga Tonga
Laurence Pearce Number 8 England England
Player Position Union
Sam Harrison Scrum-half England England
Jono Kitto Scrum-half New Zealand New Zealand
Ben Youngs Scrum-half England England
Freddie Burns Fly-half England England
Owen Williams Fly-half Wales Wales
Seremaia Bai Centre Fiji Fiji
George Catchpole Centre England England
Jean de Villiers Centre South Africa South Africa
Christian Loamanu Centre Japan Japan
Jack Roberts Centre Wales Wales
Matt Smith Centre England England
Manu Tuilagi Centre England England
Miles Benjamin Wing England England
Peter Betham Wing Australia Australia
Gonzalo Camacho Wing Argentina Argentina
Vereniki Goneva Wing Fiji Fiji
Adam Thompstone Wing England England
Telusa Veainu Wing Tonga Tonga
Tommy Bell Fullback England England
Niall Morris Fullback Ireland Ireland
Mathew Tait Fullback England England

Academy squad

Note: Flags indicate national union as has been defined under WR eligibility rules. Players may hold more than one non-WR nationality.

Player Position Union
Jake Farnworth Hooker England England
Charlie Beckett Flanker England England
Will Owen Flanker England England
George Tresidder Scrum-half England England
Oliver Bryant Fly-half England England

Current England Elite squad

Current England Saxons squad

Notable former players

International captains


The following have been appointed club captain:


Past Coaches

Name Nat. From To P W D L Win% Honours
Dean Richards  England Jan 1998 Feb 2004 168 121 4 43 72.02 1998–99 Premiership, 1999–00 Premiership, 2000–01 Premiership, 2000–01 Zurich Championship, 2000–01 Heineken Cup, 2001–02 Premiership, 2001–02 Heineken Cup
John Wells  England Feb 2004 May 2005 42 29 5 8 69.05
Pat Howard  Australia July 2005 May 2007 64 43 4 17 67.19 2006–07 Premiership, 2006-07 Anglo Welsh Cup
Richard Cockerill (Caretaker)  England July 2007 October 2007 6 4 0 2 66.66
Marcelo Loffreda  Argentina October 2007 May 2008 24 14 0 10 61.11
Heyneke Meyer  South Africa July 2008 January 2009 14 9 1 4 61.11
Richard Cockerill  England January 2009 Present 227 147 9 69 64.76 2008–09 Premiership, 2009–10 Premiership, 2011-12 Anglo-Welsh Cup, 2012–13 Premiership



  1. Farmer, Stuart; Hands, David. Tigers - Official history of Leicester Football Club. The Rugby DevelopmentFoundation. p. 16. ISBN 978-0-9930213-0-5. |access-date= requires |url= (help)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  2. The Tigers Tale, Page 19, D.Hands, ISBN 0-9514862-5-X
  3. Harry Sibson dies aged 90
  4. Leicester Tigers Official Website, Club History 1940 to 1949
  5. Leicester Tigers Official Website, Former club president Harry Sibson
  6. "Premiership history". GuinnessPremiership.com. Archived from the original on 13 April 2009. Retrieved 18 May 2009. Unknown parameter |deadurl= ignored (help)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  7. Howard returns home – BBC News, 28 December 2006
  8. Loffreda named as new Tigers boss – BBC News, 25 April 2007
  9. Sherrard, Gary (17 April 2009). "Leicester Tigers confirm Richard Cockerill appointment". Leicester Tigers. Retrieved 17 April 2009.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  10. "Leicester Tigers promote Richard Cockerill to Director or Rugby". The Guardian. 19 July 2010. Retrieved 19 July 2010.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  11. "Leicester 22-17 South Africa". BBC. 6 November 2009. Retrieved 6 November 2009.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  12. "Gloucester v Leicester – as it happened". BBC News. 12 May 2007. Retrieved 7 May 2010.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  13. Osborne, Chris (25 May 2013). "Aviva Premiership final: Leicester 37-17 Northampton". BBC Sport. Retrieved 20 June 2013.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  14. [1]
  15. Tigers to move to Walkers Stadium?
  16. Tigers call off ground share plan
  17. "Tigers set to redevelop stadium". BBC. Retrieved 11 June 2007.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  18. Tigers stadium development
  19. "The Stadium - Caterpillar Stand". Leicester Tigers. Retrieved 8 June 2013.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>

External links