Leicester Tigers took a big step towards moulding the future of their playing squad today, as they handed out six contracts to a number of the club’s budding youngsters.
The club confirmed the departure of Graham Kitchener on Monday, with the lock returning to his first professional club, Worcester Warriors, for the 2019/20 season, but they gave fans a reason for celebration with today’s contract extensions.
Tigers boasted five players in the England U20 squad last season, with the age-grade side making it to the final of the World Rugby U20 Championship, and four of those five players were among those signing new terms with the club.
Jordan Olowofela, who has become a regular feature in Leicester matchday 23s, Sam Lewis, Ben White and Tom Hardwick all committed their immediate futures to Leicester, having been part of the England U20s last season, whilst they were joined by Harry Simmons and Harry Wells.
Olowofela was a nominee for the World Rugby Junior Player of the Year last season and already has 17 appearances at senior club level this season, whilst lock Wells has joined him for many of those games, featuring in 21 so far this campaign.
White and Simmons, both scrum-halves, will continue to see opportunities with Ben Youngs on England duty, whilst Lewis offers versatility, with the back rower also capable of packing down in the second row.
Hardwick, 19, is involved with the England U20s for another year, starting at inside centre in the side’s loss to Ireland in Cork on Friday night. He, too, has seen opportunity this season with both George Ford and Matt Toomua involved with England and Australia respectively.
All six players came through the junior academy at Leicester and their re-signings mean that the club have secured the futures of five of the 10 second or third-year players in their senior academy.
With the likes of Mike Williams and Toomua joining Kitchener in leaving the club this year, head coach Geordan Murphy will be keen for a number of the youngsters at the club to put their hands up for further involvement at the senior level and single themselves out as players to build around moving forward.
Watch: Eddie Jones speaks to the press after England’s win in Dublin.
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