Whether it was the stalwarts of the 2000s who crossed over into this decade or the core of the side that lifted Leicester’s last title in 2013, Tigers have not been short of talented individuals on the pitch.
RugbyPass has done its best to narrow those players down into an all-decade XV, although there are plenty of spots where two or even three players could have featured. Let us know who would have made your XV after you read our selections below.
- Geordan Murphy
Murphy finally hung up his boots in 2013, although that doesn’t mean that he didn’t provide the club with excellent service through those final few years. He was one of the real constants during Leicester’s domination of English rugby with London Wasps and he still manages to see off the reliable Mat Tait and the unfortunately injury-hampered Telusa Veainu.
- Vereniki Goneva
The Fijian wing scored 41 tries in 88 games for Leicester and not only helped the side win their last title in 2013, he also helped keep them competitive at the top of the league for the next three seasons. He sees off Jonny May, who has made a bright start to his career at the club. Goneva’s presence has certainly been missed since he left for Newcastle Falcons in 2016.
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- Manu Tuilagi
Injuries have certainly hindered Tuilagi during his time at the club, but when he has been fit he has been almost unplayable for opposition sides. His destructive ability with ball in hand is unmatched and despite those injuries, he has still managed to accrue just over 120 appearances, which in our minds just sees him edge out the excellent service of Matt Smith.
- Anthony Allen
As Billy Twelvetrees flourished leaving Leicester for Gloucester, the same is true of Allen when he made the move in the opposite direction. He formed an excellent partnership in the midfield with Tuilagi, and Leicester have struggled to replace that chemistry and impact in their subsequent centre pairings.
- Alesana Tuilagi
There is a valid argument that Scott Hamilton potentially gave the club a little more in this past decade than Tuilagi did, although the Samoan was still in rampant and destructive form for the final two years with Tigers before leaving in 2012. Arguably no winger has given Premiership defences as many sleepless nights as this man and, like Goneva, his presence has been sorely missed since.
- Toby Flood
Honourable mentions here for George Ford, who has been vitally important to Tigers in recent seasons, and Owen Williams, who resurrected his career in the East Midlands before moving on to Gloucester. That said, Flood turned in quality performance after quality performance with Leicester prior to his move to Toulouse in 2014, although admittedly the quality around him arguably surpassed that available to Ford and Williams.
- Ben Youngs
This is the first selection that requires no debate or thought. Youngs has been the go-to man for Leicester for the entirety of the 2010s and though he comes in for a certain level of criticism from England fans, his standard of play at both club and country levels has been consistently high. He is England’s most capped scrum-half and has twice been selected for the British and Irish Lions.
- Marcos Ayerza
Ellis Genge’s recent charge and the cult hero that was Logovi’i Mulipola both deserve mention, but Ayerza’s impact over a lengthy period of time remains unmatched. The Argentine prop is in the conversation with Schalk Brits and Nick Evans as perhaps the greatest import in Premiership rugby history and the dominance of the Leicester scrum during his time at the club was worthy of all the praise and accolades that it drew.
- Tom Youngs
Like his brother, Youngs has been a staple of Leicester over the past ten years and though his contributions at an international level diminished as the decade went on, his commitment to the club did not. Whether through his performances on the pitch, his durability or his captaincy of the club, Youngs has embodied everything that it means to be a Leicester Tiger.
- Dan Cole
The head says Cole for a number of reasons, many of which mirror those mentioned in regard to his front row colleague, Youngs, even though Martin Castrogiovanni’s case is also a strong one. The Italian was beloved by the Welford Road faithful and though the end to his time in the East Midlands was somewhat spiky, he contributed much to Leicester’s success. Cole has arguably done slightly more over a longer period, despite not having Castrogiovanni’s cult hero status, but either would be a fair call at this spot.
- Ed Slater
Mentions for Louis Deacon and Graham Kitchener here, although you only need to look at Leicester’s fortunes on the pitch since Slater’s departure to see how much his ability has been missed by the club. He embodied plenty of the characteristics of the Leicester packs of old and Tigers’ subsequent search for starting second rows has yet to yield a player capable of filling Slater’s boots.
- Geoff Parling
Parling ruled the skies for Leicester in the lineout during his time at the club, building a very successful partnership with Youngs at the set-piece. He and Slater were and remain to this day the most effective second row partnership the club have had since Martin Johnson and Ben Kay, and he was another player whose departure from the club aligns with their drop in fortunes.
- Tom Croft
The ultimate ‘what could have been’ player, Croft – when fit – was one of if not the most electrifying player in English rugby. His athleticism, whether that was as a ball-carrier or as a lineout forward, was unmatched in European rugby and with the exception of perhaps Pierre Spies in South Africa, he had arguably no peer in the global game either. Despite the injuries, he still had a productive career with Leicester and his premature retirement was one of the saddest in recent memory.
- Julian Salvi
The nuggety Australian openside found success at Leicester in the first half of the decade before helping to guide Exeter Chiefs to their maiden Premiership title in the second half of it. Tigers have struggled to replace him, going through a number of options in the seven jersey as well as bulking up in the back row and moving away from the fetcher mould. If they could click their fingers and have back a 27-year-old Salvi, they would.
- Jordan Crane
A very close run contest here, with Thomas Waldrom a more than suitable choice. We leant towards Crane for the longevity of his service to the club and the standards he continued to set, even as a number of Leicester’s ‘golden generation’ of players were beginning to hang up their boots or move elsewhere. Although not built in the mould of the most explosive No8s currently doing the rounds, his all-round game was key for Tigers.
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