As pre-season opponents go, it doesn’t get a lot tougher than an Argentina side fresh from slaying the Springboks.
But as Leicester Tigers prepare to welcome Los Pumas to Welford Road for Marcos Ayerza’s testimonial match, Tommy Bell is relishing the challenge.
The Tigers are in the thick of a gruelling pre-season and a clash with Argentina this weekend represents their first opportunity for a bit of match practice.
It is no easy introduction – Daniel Hourcade’s charges are bracing themselves for the World Cup and recently beat two-time world champions South Africa in the Rugby Championship – but full-back Bell is not too concerned.
“Argentina is the first game back for a few months after a long, hard block of fitness and a lot of training,” he said. “Everyone is excited to get out there.
“It is tough. Sometimes you want to build in lightly and build up to games but we are getting chucked in right at the deep end. At the same time it’s good – and you want chances to play in big games and I am sure it will be a good atmosphere.
“Their squad in general is pretty strong. They have come off a Rugby Championship where they beat South Africa and they are looking to take a bit of momentum into their World Cup campaign.”
Ayerza – who joined Leicester back in 2006 and has 147 Aviva Premiership Rugby appearances to his name – will be the centre of attention on the day, but Bell is not ready to give him an easy afternoon.
“I will target him,” he laughed. “I’ll try to run around him a few times, which should be good.”
However, this is not just a World Cup warm-up for Argentina or an opportunity to honour a Leicester legend – it represents the start of the campaign for the Tigers.
After a hit-and-miss campaign last time out, they have called on All Blacks legend Aaron Mauger as the new head coach and Bell admits he is drinking in as much wisdom as possible before season gets underway.
“He has changed the game plan a little bit,” added Bell. “It is just about taking time and luckily we have got the extended pre-season to get our heads around it.
“He was a fantastic player and I grew up watching him for the All Blacks and the Tigers. He is a great coach, he has brought some new methods in and some slight changes to the game plan.
“Everyone is buying into it and raring to get going with the new season.”