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6'4, 149kg Nephi Leatigaga set for Leicester Tigers debut

As rugby union goes, they don’t come much bigger than Nephi Leatigaga.

Leicester’s giant Samoan summer signing is in line for his debut in this Saturday’s trip to face Bath Rugby in the Premiership Rugby Cup.

Standing 6’4 and weighing in at 149kg, Leatigaga is the heaviest loosehead prop playing the game professionally, and is just a few kilos lighter than the plus 150kg frames of Tongan tighthead Ben Tameifuna (151-154kg) and France’s Uini Atonio (152kg).

Despite weighing the same as two Herschel Jantjies, he’s also relatively little excess weight on his enormous frame. He will become the Premiership’s heaviest ever player when he makes his full league debut, beating 143kg Biyi Alo by 6kg – just under a stone.

The Samoa international prop is included in the squad for the first time since his arrival and will hope to get some game time off the bench.

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The 25-year-old Leatigaga has played on both sides of the front row in European rugby with Piacenza in Italy and Biarritz in France, and made his first of five Test appearances for Samoa in 2016.

Elsewhere Adam Thompstone returns from long-term injury and scrum-half Harry Simmons is also in line for his first appearance of the season after being named alongside fellow academy graduates Sam Costelow and Freddie Steward on the bench.

Experienced wing Thompstone, in his eighth season with Tigers, plays his first game of the year after recovery from a knee injury which ended his 2018/19 season early.

He is joined in the Tigers back three by Jonah Holmes and Jordan Olowofela, who both scored tries in last Friday’s Round 2 win over Exeter Chiefs at Welford Road.

George Worth and Joe Thomas team up at centre, with former England Under-20s internationals Tom Hardwick and Ben White at half-back after both appeared off the bench last week.

Tatafu Polota-Nau makes his first starting appearance of the campaign at hooker, with Harry Wells and Tommy Reffell returning to the starting pack.

Tigers defence coach Phil Blake, looking ahead to Saturday’s game, said: “We went with a younger line-up for Round 1 and more experience last weekend but now we’ve got a mix of youth and experience this week.

“It’s about getting game-time into players and also looking at the combinations throughout the team.

“There were a lot of good signs last week but Bath at The Rec is always a tough challenge.”

Leicester Tigers (v Bath Rugby, away, Saturday 3.00pm)

15 Jonah Holmes
14 Adam Thompstone
13 Joe Thomas
12 George Worth
11 Jordan Olowofela
10 Tom Hardwick
09 Ben White

01 Greg Bateman
02 Tatafu Polota-Nau
03 Joe Heyes
04 Harry Wells
05 Calum Green (c)
06 Guy Thompson
07 Tommy Reffell
08 Jordan Coghlan

Replacements

16 Jake Kerr
17 Facundo Gigena
18 Nephi Leatigaga
19 Hanro Liebenberg
20 Ifereimi Boladau
21 Harry Simmons
22 Sam Costelow
23 Freddie Steward

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6'4, 149kg Nephi Leatigaga set for Leicester Tigers debut