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Saturday, October 29, 2011

Leicester Tigers boss Cockerill calls on fringe players to shine

Richard Cockerill Richard Cockerill (Pic: Getty)

Richard Cockerill has challenged his Leicester fringe players to rise to the challenge of propelling the team up the table after Manu Tuilagi joined the club's injured list.

Star centre Tuilagi is set to be absent until mid-December after breaking a cheekbone in a collision with Scott Lawson during last Friday's home victory over Gloucester in the LV= Cup.

The England international will miss a raft of big matches for Tigers, who head into tomorrow's Aviva Premiership clash away to Sale Sharks in an unfamiliar 11th place, after just one win in six games.

He joins the likes of Mathew Tait and Billy Twelvetrees on the sidelines, with director of rugby Cockerill left to wonder when his team's fitness fortunes will improve.

Cockerill said: "Manu suffered a broken cheekbone after a clash of heads in the Gloucester game and we'll be without him for about six weeks. Anthony Allen has had an operation on his thumb after an injury in an accident at home.

"We're having a terrible run of luck, especially with Mathew Tait's groin injury and Billy Twelvetrees out with an ankle injury.

"But we knew we would need the whole squad to front up if we were going to push on this season.

"Matt Smith has been playing really well and Horacio Agulla came back from the World Cup and fitted right back in last week.

"We now have all the Test players back with us and we've been working hard to integrate them as quickly as possible."

Leicester's only win in the league this season came in a tight match at Newcastle, and most of their defeats have come in close games, aside from when they shipped 50 points to Saracens at Welford Road.

Tomorrow they will have hooker George Chuter making his 250th appearance in Tigers colours, and Tom Croft playing his 100th match for the club.

Sale's policy heading into the Edgeley Park tussle will be to ignore the league table and remember the threat Leicester carried in finishing top of the pile last season.

Sale boss Steve Diamond said: "We've had some good sessions this week, working on several issues raised by last week's game.

"The match against Leicester will be very tough, probably our hardest task of the season. We can't wait."

Wasps will have England hooker Steve Thompson in their line-up for the first time tomorrow as they tackle Worcester at Sixways.

The former Leeds man returns after World Cup duty and said: "I can't wait to get out there and am delighted to get my first start because there is a lot of competition here for the number two shirt."

Worcester head coach Richard Hill recalls Shaun Perry after a feared serious knee injury proved only a minor problem.

Just three weeks ago, Hill had ruled Perry out of his plans for six months, and feared he lacked cover at scrum-half.

Perry is back, though, and Hill is looking forward to a testing encounter, calling for a resilient effort after defence coach Phil Larder condemned the performance in the last league outing at London Irish, where Worcester leaked 26 points in the second half to lose 42-14.

Hill said: "We had a poor defensive day with Phil Larder away. He has been in since then and read the riot act so I am certain we will get the right response.

"We expect Wasps to come full strength and they will keep the ball in hand and look to put pressure on us.

"Our three quarters will need a strong defensive game as Wasps will test us out in the wide areas, but I am confident in our defence."

Leaders Harlequins take on Exeter on Saturday, when second-placed Saracens visit Gloucester, London Irish have home advantage against Bath and Northampton play bottom-of-the-table Newcastle.

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