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Tom Croft is backing Aviva Premiership Rugby First Timers

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England international Tom Croft still remembers fondly his first appearance in a Leicester shirt in the Premiership aged just 18 and now he’s encouraging future Tigers to come and sample the atmosphere at Welford Road.

Croft, who has made more than 40 appearances for England, first sampled rugby as a youngster at Newbury, before moving on to the Leicester Tigers Academy.

His first passion was football but he soon realised his giant frame was more suited to rugby and quickly made his mark.

"I think people who have never been along to a Premiership rugby game before should give it a go, whether you know a lot about rugby or nothing at all – it's a place you can bring your family, young or old and enjoy a very good day out," he said.

"I started watching rugby late on, probably 10 or 11 years old – I grew up in Berkshire and my school was right next door to Newbury Rugby Club – the first game I went to see at Leicester was when I was in the academy – and I was hooked immediately.”

"Newbury was my first port of call for rugby – I was playing football for my local side but after having a taste of the game I loved it.”

Croft's interview was part of a new campaign from Premiership Rugby and Aviva to welcome new supporters to Aviva Premiership Rugby this season.

He is one of 12 club ambassadors – including Chris Robshaw, Danny Cipriani, James Haskell, Schalk Brits and Courtney Lawes – who are backing the Aviva Premiership Rugby First Timers' campaign.

As part of the campaign Aviva and the Premiership Rugby clubs have teamed up to give away almost 2,000 free tickets across every game in the first seven rounds of Aviva Premiership Rugby matches, from the start of the season right up to Christmas.

Despite growing up at Leicester Tigers and progressing through the age-groups and the academy – Croft still remembers feeling terrified when he first made his Premiership bow.

"The first I played for Leicester in the Premiership it was against Gloucester and it was November 12, I'd just turned 18 and I was playing in front of a packed Welford Road," he added.

"The chance to play for Leicester Tigers was amazing, I had come up through the academy and I was absolutely panicking – it was amazing, we won the game and it all went from there."

The Aviva Premiership Rugby First Timers programme will give away almost 2,000 free tickets across every game in the first seven rounds of Aviva Premiership Rugby matches, from the start of the season right up to Christmas.  Fans are encouraged to tell friends and family who have never been to a Leicester Tigers fixture before to visit www.premiershiprugby.com/avivafirsttimers now to sign up for their free tickets.

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