Internationals and senior first-team players are providing a helping hand to the next generation of Leicester Tigers players by leading position-specific coaching sessions for the academy.
Manu Tuilagi, Matt Toomua, JP Pietersen and Marcos Ayerza are among a group of Tigers first-teamers providing guidance to teenagers hoping to follow them into the club’s senior ranks.
Working position-by-position with players in the 16-18 age-group, the Tigers players joined the club’s academy coaches at Oval Park to present drills and advice to the lucky group of youngsters taking their first steps on the pathway to senior rugby.
Tuilagi and Toomua worked with the inside backs, while Pietersen and Telusa Veainu joined the group of back-three players, with Sam Harrison and Jono Kitto combining to work with the scrum-halves.
Australia international centre Toomua who joined Tigers this season, said: “It was really good fun. The kids were so enthusiastic and that always makes it easier. We were all young once as well and I remember Australia fly-half Berrick Barnes when he came down for a session at our club and hopefully we can offer something memorable like that for these guys.”
In the forwards, Ayerza was joined by Logovi’i Mulipola and Fraser Balmain in working with the front-rows, Graham Kitchener and Harry Wells worked on second-row skills, and Lachlan McCaffrey and Will Evans passed on their tips to the young back-rows.
McCaffrey, now in his second season at Welford Road, said: “The young guys in our group were technically and knowledge-wise very good. They were very capable kids and it was very enjoyable.
“We went through some breakdown drills and attack, and Will did some technical stuff about being on the ball and stealing turnovers. The difference from the start to finish of the session was great, there was a lot of growth. Then we did some units stuff with Kitch leading the lineout and he was very good with his detail there.
“It’s great to be able to offer some help for those young lads wanting to be Leicester players. From what we saw, those boys have got a bright future in the game.”
Tigers junior academy manager Jamie Taylor added: “We’ve always had a close link between the academy and the rest of the club, and we want to reinforce that and build on it. We think it’s really good for the academy players to have mentors from the senior squad and to be able to look up at a first-team player and recognise what they need to put in place if they’re going to kick on and make the transition into being a first-team player.
“For some of the guys in that age-group, this might be the first time they’ve ever met first-team players and they can realise they are humble guys who are willing to give their time and invest it in that next generation of Leicester Tigers.
“We’ve had quite a few of the guys work with us this year, coming in to coach groups of players in specific skills. The development squad lads have spoken to the under-16s, Harry Thacker has been in with the group to talk about his experiences, and Harry Wells and Jono Kitto are two others who have done bits of coaching during the season.
“All those links are important so all the academy players understand what the club is about and what it takes to be a first-team player here. Having first-team players giving up their time shows too what the club means to them and what it means to have that development philosophy all the way through the club.”