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Leicester Tigers sign England star Anthony Watson and Jimmy Gopperth

By Kim Ekin
Anthony Watson of the British & Irish Lions runs with the ball during the 1st Test match between the South Africa Springboks and the British & Irish Lions at Cape Town Stadium on July 24, 2021 in Cape Town, South Africa. (Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)

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After months of rumours, Leicester Tigers have confirmed the signing of England star Anthony Watson from Bath.

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The British and Irish Lion has been linked to an exit from the struggling West Country side since before Christmas and his move to the high-flying Tigers has been confirmed this evening. Leicester have also signed Jimmy Gopperth, a move first reported by RugbyPass back in January.

Watson moved to Bath in 2013 and has since made more than 100 appearances for the club in the Premiership and European competitions. He made his Test debut for England in 2014 against New Zealand at Twickenham and has made more than 50 international appearances, including at the 2015 and 2019 Rugby World Cups.

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He was also selected for back-to-back British & Irish Lions tours in 2017 and 2021.

Leicester Tigers Head Coach Steve Borthwick said: “Anthony is a world-class player who has played at the highest levels of the game over a number of seasons.

“While he has reached great heights, he is incredibly keen to develop his game, remains ambitious and has a lot more he wants to achieve.”

Watson said he wanted to make a mark at England’s toughest club.

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“The first word that comes to mind with Leicester Tigers is ‘tough’. It is a tough club, a tough group of people and to be a part of that kind of environment is the best thing for me.

“I want to be successful, of course, but I also want to improve as a player and Tigers is an environment where I believe I will be able to become the best player I can possibly be while, most importantly, being a part and contributing to the team being the best it can be.

“Having worked with him before, I know how Steve [Borthwick] goes about his business, and the opportunity to work with him, his coaching team and this group at Leicester Tigers is an exciting one.

“Mattioli Woods Welford Road has always been a hostile place to play so it will definitely be nice to be on the right side of that with that incredible support behind you.

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“I am someone who believes you have to earn your stripes every day in what you do. I won’t be resting on my laurels and will be working hard to earn the respect of my team-mates, coaches and Tigers supporters.”

The club have confirmed the signing of 17 new contracts in total today.

Included in the eleven renewals are senior squad members Chris Ashton, Sean Jansen, Kini Murimurivalu, Harry Simmons and Richard Wigglesworth and senior academy players Joe Browning, Jacob Cusick, Sam Edwards, Emeka Ilione, Tom Manz and Archie Vanes.

As well as Watson and Gopperth, James Cronin (Biarritz Olympique) as well as Olly Cracknell and Phil Cokanasiga (both from London Irish).

Speaking about the eleven players to agree new deals Borthwick said: “I hope the supporters are pleased to see these new deals announced.”

“It is great to be able to agree new deals with all of these players and have them recommit to Leicester Tigers. They have all been a part of these early stages in this journey.

“We have made great strides in the past 18 months but still have a lot of growth in us and a lot of hard work ahead, which each of these players is committed to.

“It is fantastic that they will continue to be a part of what we are building at Leicester Tigers.”

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