Match Stats - Fix Info
Preview: London Irish v Leicester Tigers
Sam Harrison is prepared for one or two surprises when Leicester Tigers travel to a new-look London Irish on Sunday.
The Exiles have a new man in charge, after Tom Coventry took the reins over the summer, and kick off their campaign against Leicester at the Madejski Stadium.
Leicester have a new-look backroom staff of their own however, with Aaron Mauger signing on as head coach as they seek to return to the Aviva Premiership Rugby summit.
They have also won each of their last three opening-weekend fixtures in the competition, as well as their last three regular-season games at the close of the last campaign.
And scrum-half Harrison expects the changes implemented by former All Black Mauger – over the course of an extended pre-season – to breathe new life into the Tigers.
“They’ve got a new coach in Tom Coventry and I imagine they may be a different side to what we’re used to in the Premiership,” he said. “So we’re fully aware that it is going to be a demanding and probably quite close game.
“We’re definitely ready for it and itching to get out there. There is limited preparation you can do on the other team first week of the season, but that means you can focus on your game all the more.
“We’re probably a bit of a different team as well. I think we’ve fully bedded into Aaron Mauger’s system now, and also defensively with Scotty Hansen we all know our roles now.
“So that will be exciting to put that into play in a real game. I think there is a lot more impetus on our attacking game, as we became a little bit predictable at the end of last season.
“We are looking to play good attacking rugby, but at the same time not get too far away from what we’re good at which is set-piece and basics in defence.”
In contrast to their visitors, London Irish have a poor recent record in season-opening fixtures, losing each of their last four in Aviva Premiership Rugby.
London Irish have only lost once at home in the competition since last November, though that was at the hands of Leicester – 12-6 in February.
And they have beaten the Tigers just once in any tournament since October 2009, in round 4 of Aviva Premiership Rugby last season.
“It will be a nice change to start a season at home,” said Exiles winger Topsy Ojo. “I can’t remember the last time we had the first game of the season at the Madejski Stadium.
“The last couple of games we have had with Leicester have tended to be very close and I’d expect something similar again.
“Leicester Tigers always send out a formidable team and we’ve all been waiting so long for the season to start that it will be all guns blazing from both teams for the first 20 minutes I’d expect. But once it settles down I think we will be in for a good, competitive game of rugby.”
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Madejski Stadium, 3.15pm
Referee: Matthew Carley (32nd Premiership game).
Assistant Referees: Ashley Rowden & Robin Goodliffe. TMO: Stuart Terheege.