Leicester Tigers made a couple of big-ticket signings in their back-line this summer and Manu Tuilagi is relishing the opportunity to learn from the new experienced heads.
Winger JP Pietersen – who has 69 South Africa caps to his name – joined from Super Rugby side the Sharks while 33-cap Australian fly-half or centre Matt Toomua moves to Welford Road from the Brumbies.
Pietersen has already tasted the Aviva Premiership by starting all four of Leicester’s league games this term, whereas Toomua will link up with the squad shortly following the completion of the Rugby Championship with the Wallabies.
And powerhouse centre Tuilagi believes Tigers’ back-line is now more fearsome than ever after the additions.
“I am very excited, the big players are just what we need,” said Tuilagi, speaking at the launch of this year’s Aviva Community Fund alongside team-mates Dan Cole and Ben Youngs.
“JP Pietersen went really well from day one and I look forward to playing with him. Matt Toomua is not here yet but I am very excited to get him into the team and play alongside him.
“It has added strength to our back-line and it’s going to be an exciting time. With players of that level – they have a lot of experience.”
The Aviva Community Fund is a nationwide initiative that lends a helping hand to local communities by offering support and funding for local causes, clubs and projects.
It has already benefited over 320,000 people, through 431 winning projects across the UK, and this year, local grassroots sports clubs can apply or reapply for funding in a new, sport-specific category.
And Tuilagi believes that ensuring the health of grassroots clubs up and down the country is vital to the future of the sport.
“I think it’s very important because that’s where we all started our rugby,” added Tuilagi. “For myself, I played at Hinckley since I was very young.
“It’s very important for the Aviva Community Fund to try and help them out. Hopefully with the money it will help to bring more kids into the sport and experience the world of rugby.
“I have a lot of good memories playing for Hinckley. You play with your mates every weekend, the same as now, but back in age groups it’s all about enjoying it.
“The ACF will help the local clubs, improve the pitches, and bring a lot more kids into the game. They enjoy it and love the game even more.”
Leicester have suffered defeat in the Aviva Premiership Rugby semi-finals for each of the last three years, and last season reached the last four in the European Rugby Champions Cup.
And Tuilagi acknowledges that the squad are determined to improve this time around.
“Our standards set the bar very high so it’s very disappointing to come away without winning anything the last three years,” he explained.
“We need to keep building. It takes time to build a good team and winning a championship. We are nearly there; we have had some disappointments in the past but that will make us stronger.
“We learn from our mistakes we play with our experience and will take that into the season.
“We have been together for a while now. We have had some disappointments in the past. Those tough memories will definitely bring us together and it makes us stronger as a team.
“We did well last year to get to the semi-final so it was disappointing. We have learned some tough lessons. You see from teams like Leicester in the past it takes time to build a good side.”
Premiership Rugby and the 12 Aviva Premiership Rugby Clubs are supporting the Aviva Community Fund, a nationwide initiative which offers funding of up to £25,000 to grassroots sports clubs and other community organisations close to your heart.
Enter at aviva.co.uk/community-fund from September 13.