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Leicester Tigers

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Leicester Tigers
Full nameLeicester Football Club
Founded3 August 1880; 143 years ago (1880-08-03)
LocationLeicester, England
Ground(s)Mattioli Woods Welford Road (Capacity: 25,849)
ChairmanPeter Tom
CEOAndrea Pinchen
Coach(es)Dan McKellar
Captain(s)Julián Montoya
Most appearancesDavid Matthews (502)
Top scorerDusty Hare (4,507)
Most triesPercy Lawrie (206)
League(s)Premiership Rugby
1st kit
2nd kit
First match
28 October 1880
0 – 0 v Moseley
Largest win
100-0 v Liverpool St Helens, 11 April 1992
Largest defeat
10-85 v Barbarians, 4 June 2000
Official website

Leicester Tigers (officially Leicester Football Club) are a professional rugby union club based in Leicester, England. They play in Premiership Rugby, England's top division of rugby.

The club was founded in 1880 and since 1892 plays its home matches at Mattioli Woods Welford Road in the south of the city. The club has been known by the nickname Tigers since at least 1885. In the 2022–23 Premiership Rugby season Tigers finished 3rd, this entitled them to compete in the 2023–24 European Rugby Champions Cup. The current head coach is Dan McKellar who took his role in the summer of 2023.

Leicester have won 21 major titles. They were European Champions twice, back-to-back in 2001 and 2002; have won a record 11 English Championships, five RFU Knockout Cups and three Anglo-Welsh Cups, most recently in 2017. Leicester most recently won the Premiership Rugby title in the 2022 season, and appeared in a record nine successive Premiership finals, from 2005 to 2013. Leicester is one of only three teams never to have been relegated from the top division. Leicester have appeared in five European finals, the joint-second most overall, as well as the two victories they have also lost finals three times, in 1997, 2007 and 2009. In 2021 they played in the European Rugby Challenge Cup final.

Five Leicester Tigers players were members of the 2003 Rugby World Cup Final winning England side including captain Martin Johnson.


Foundation and Tom Crumbie era (1880–1928)[edit]

Leicester Tigers in 1894

Leicester Football Club was formed on 3 August 1880 by the merger of three smaller teams: Leicester Athletic Society, Leicester Amateurs and Leicester Alert.[1][2] The club's first game was a scoreless draw on 23 October against Moseley at the Belgrave Road Cycle and Cricket Ground.[3][4] On 10 September 1892 Leicester played their first game at Welford Road against a Leicestershire XV.[5]

Tom Crumbie was appointed secretary on 2 August 1895, a position he held for the next 33 years.[6] Crumbie has been credited with dragging the club to national prominence. He disbanded reserve and third teams making the First XV an invitation side and introducing players from all over the country.[7][8] Tigers first silverware was the Midlands Counties Cup won for the first time in 1898 against Moseley.[9] Having won the Midlands Counties Cup every year from 1898 to 1905, they dropped out "to give other teams a chance".[10] On their return to the competition in 1909 Tigers won the cup again.[11]

Leicester's match against Racing club de France in February 1923

In 1903 Jack Miles became the first home-produced England international.[12] Leicester's status as a premier club was confirmed in 1905 when a crowd of 20,000 was on hand to see the club face The Original All Blacks, losing 28–0.[13] December 1909 saw Tigers play the Barbarians for the first time, holding them to a 9–9 draw. The fixture became a vital feature in the club's calendar delivering large attendances until open professionalism and league rugby in the 1990s forced it to gradually be abandoned due to fixture congestion. Tigers won the Midlands Counties Cup three more times in four years to cement their place as the midland's premier side before the outbreak of war in 1914. The visit of the Invincible All Blacks on 4 October 1924 saw a record attendance at Welford Road of 35,000 that stands to this day.[14] Tigers were beaten 27–0 by the tourists.

Lions captains, decline and club restructure (1928–1971)[edit]

Club captain Doug Prentice captained the 1930 British Lions tour to New Zealand and Australia.[15] The first BBC radio broadcast of a Tigers game was against Waterloo on 29 November 1930; Tigers won 21–5.[15] Bernard Gadney became the club's first home-produced England captain in 1934 and was captain when four Leicester players were part of the first England side to beat the All Blacks. Gadney also became the club's second player to captain the British Lions on their tour to Argentina. 1936-37 was the worst season since 1889-90 for the club with only 14 wins from 39 matches.[16]

Tigers first televised game by the BBC was on 3 February 1951 when they beat London Scottish 14–0 at the Richmond Athletic Ground.[17] The club underwent a significant restructure in the 1956/57 season. The practice of being an "invitation" club featuring only a First XV stopped and Tigers adopted a more traditional membership club based approach with multiple sides. The "A XV" was to be re-introduced under the name "Extra First XV" with a third "Colts XV" also formed.[18] The 1963/64 season saw David Matthews set the record for most consecutive appearances for the club with 109.[19] Matthews was to become captain in 1965 and in 1966/67 lead the club to a record 33 wins.[20] Chalkie White became coach in 1968; the same season Tom Berry became Leicester's first President of the RFU. White was credited with revolutionising Leicester's players in response to rule changes that opened up the game. 1970/71 saw Peter Wheeler emerge as first-choice hooker having made his debut the year before, he ended the season on England's tour to the Far East. Attendance for the annual Barbarians game hit a nadir with a crowd of only 2,518.[21]

Introduction of competitions (1971–1978)[edit]

The 1971/72 season saw changes that would radically change both the club and the game. The RFU introduced a national Knockout Cup competition for clubs and on 16 November 1971 Tigers played their first competitive cup match since 1914, a 10–3 defeat to Nottingham at their Beeston ground. Also introduced that season was Tigers' first "Youth" XV, based on a collection of the best 14 and 15-year-olds in the county. Only six years later Paul Dodge became the first graduate to win an international cap.[22]

Tigers were not involved in the 1974-75 Cup and lost in the 1st round of the 1975-76 Cup. This forced the club into the Midlands qualifiers for the only time. This era saw a huge increase in the popularity of the Barbarians annual fixture with crowds of 15,000 in 1973 & 1975, 17,000 in 1974 and 21,000 in 1976. This contrasted with usual crowds in the low hundreds. [23] 1976-77 saw the introduction of regional "Merit Tables" by the RFU, the first step on the road to full leagues. Based around traditional fixtures Tigers finished second to Moseley in the Midlands Merit Table with a record of played 8 won 6.[23] It took 6 years before Leicester were drawn at home in the cup but in 1977-78 they received four in a row on their way to a first Twickenham final against Gloucester. The game ended in a 6–3 loss to the Cherry and Whites; the attendance was 25,282 - more than double the previous season. Cup success also coincided with Tigers' membership more than doubling from 750 in 1978 to 2,000 by the end of 1979.[24]

Centenary and cup and league success (1979–1988)[edit]

Leicester secured their first national trophy, the 1978–79 John Player Cup, by defeating Moseley 15–12. Tigers retained the cup in 1979–80 beating London Irish 21–9 at Twickenham in front of a record crowd of 27,000.[25] 1979–80 also saw Tigers win the Midlands Merit Table for the first time. To celebrate the club's centenary a six-match tour to Australia and Fiji was arranged in August 1980, the first undertaken by an English club in the southern hemisphere.[citation needed] Prestige fixtures staged at Welford Road to mark the centenary were the visit of the Irish Wolfhounds, Romania, and Queensland. Tigers retained the Midlands Merit Table title in November with an undefeated record. On 25 April 1981 Tigers' Dusty Hare broke the world record for points scored in first-class fixtures with 3,658 points.[26] Leicester retained the cup in 1980–81 by beating Gosforth 22–15.

Leicester was knocked out in the semi-finals of the 1982 Cup. This was also Chalkie White's last season with the club after 30 years as a player, administrator or coach. A new generation of players debuted in the early '80s: Dean Richards, John Wells, and Rory Underwood. In 1985 in the penultimate step towards league rugby, the Merit Table A was launched for two seasons where Tigers finished fourth and second. League rugby was launched in England with the 1987–88 Courage League and all sides now played all other sides in a round-robin. Tigers lost only one match all season and the end of the 1987–88 season Tigers became England's first official champions.[27]

Tigers finished the 1988–89 Courage League in sixth place, their joint-worst ever finish.[28] During the late 1980s and early 1990s several key members of the Leicester pack came through the youth ranks and became key first-team contributors, most notably lock Martin Johnson who debuted in 1989 and later became club captain; flanker Neil Back who joined in 1990; and the front row trio of Graham Rowntree, Richard Cockerill, and Darren Garforth who started 166 games together between 1992 and 2002.[29]

Professional and European success (1993–2003)[edit]

From 1993 to 2002 Leicester enjoyed a remarkable nine trophies in ten years. This streak started when Leicester won the 1993 Pilkington Cup.[30] In 1993/94 Tigers finished runners up in the Courage League to Bath. Leicester finished as Courage League champion in 1994–95.[31]

The advent of the 1995–96 season brought two important changes: rugby union (and consequently the Tigers) became professional, and European club competition began in the form of the Heineken cup. The 1995/96 season was another of just missing out to perennial rivals Bath who secured a league and cup double after defeating Leicester in the Pilkington Cup final. In Leicester's debut season in the Heineken Cup the team reached the final, losing 28–9 against Brive. Leicester won the 1997 Pilkington Cup Final 9–3 against Sale. That summer Martin Johnson was named as captain for the 1997 British Lions tour to South Africa. In February 1998 Dean Richards was appointed as Director of Rugby following Bob Dwyer's sacking.[32][33]

Geordan Murphy, pictured in 2012, played 322 games for Leicester between 1997 and 2013. He is the most decorated player in the club's history with 8 Premiership titles, 2 European titles and 2 Anglo-Welsh cups.

Under Richards, Leicester entered a golden age, winning four consecutive Premiership Rugby titles in 1999, 2000, 2001 and 2002, as well as back to back Heineken Cups in 2001 and 2002. During the 1998–99 Premiership, the Tigers title was sealed in the penultimate match of the season.[34] In the 1999-2000 Premiership season Leicester retained their title. Tigers' third successive Premiership title was sealed early on 17 March 2001.[35] In the 2001 Heineken Cup final Tigers beat Stade Français 34–30 to secure the club's first continental title.[36] Tigers had won the inaugural Premiership playoffs the week before so also sealed an unprecedented treble.[37] That summer Martin Johnson was named captain for the 2001 British & Irish Lions tour to Australia, becoming the first man to lead two tours.

Leicester became the first side to retain a European title after beating Munster 15–9 in the 2002 Heineken Cup Final.[38] Leicester also retained their fourth successive Premiership title in 2002. This brought the club's total to six championships, tying Bath's record. During this time Leicester went 57 games unbeaten at home from 30 December 1997 to 30 November 2002 and earned 52 successive wins.[39] During these four seasons, Leicester lost only 14 games out of the 92 they played.

During the 2003–04 season, Leicester's form suffered and with eight games left in the season Dean Richards was sacked.[40] After Richards' departure Tigers turned to his assistant coach John Wells,[41] who guided Leicester to the regular season top of the league in his only full season. In Martin Johnson and Neil Back's last game for Leicester they lost the Premiership Final to London Wasps.

Premiership success (2004–2013)[edit]

Pat Howard succeeded Wells as the Head Coach.[42] Howard coached the club for two seasons losing a Premiership final to Sale in his first season. Over the summer of 2006, the core of a new pack was recruited, and in Howard's second season Leicester won their first piece of silverware for five years, winning the Anglo-Welsh Cup, and sealed the club's first domestic league and cup double after winning the Premiership final 44–16 against Gloucester. However, Leicester lost the Heineken Cup Final to Wasps. Howard left the club at the end of the season.[43]

Howard was succeeded for one season by the coach of Argentina Marcelo Loffreda, who started after the 2007 Rugby World Cup.[44] Loffreda had a torrid time in charge despite getting to two finals. After losing the Anglo Welsh Cup final to the Ospreys, Leicester became the first side to win an away game in the Premiership playoffs by beating Gloucester in the semi-finals, but lost to Wasps in the final. After this final Loffreda was sacked.[45]

Tom Croft made his debut in 2006 after coming through the club's academy, he played 173 games before retiring in 2017

Heyneke Meyer was the board's choice to replace Loffreda, but family circumstances led to his resignation.[46] Richard Cockerill took over, the appointment was confirmed as permanent on 17 April 2009.[47] Cockerill lead Leicester to two Premiership titles in as many years. In the 2009 Premiership final Leicester beat London Irish 10–9,[48] and Tigers retained their title the following year as they defeated Saracens 33–27.[49] After an historic placing kicking competition decided the 2009 Heineken cup semi-final, Leicester lost the 2009 Heineken Cup Final to Irish province Leinster. On Friday 6 November 2009 Leicester hosted the world champion Springboks of South Africa and the young Leicester side triumphed 22–17.[50]

Domestic success continued with Tigers reaching Premiership finals but losing in 2011 and 2012, against Saracens and Harlequins respectively, and winning the 2012 LV Cup.[51][52] In 2013 Tigers won their record extending 10th English title defeating local rivals Northampton Saints 37–17.[53]

Championship drought (2013–2020)[edit]

The next year Northampton beat Tigers 21–20 in the Premiership semi final at Franklin's Gardens.[54] The next two years Tigers suffered heavy away defeats in the semi-finals to Bath (47–10)[55] and Saracens (44–17).[56]

On Monday 2 January 2017, Leicester sacked Richard Cockerill as Director of Rugby.[57] Aaron Mauger was placed in temporary charge of the team,[58] winning the 2017 Anglo-Welsh Cup, until Matt O'Connor was announced as the new head coach.[59] Under O'Connor Tigers secured their 13th consecutive playoff appearance where they lost narrowly to Wasps 21–20.[60][61] In the 2017–18 season successive home defeats to Northampton and Newcastle in Leicester's final two home games saw Tigers miss the playoffs for the first time since 2005.[62] After a 40–6 defeat in the opening game of the 2018-19 Premiership Rugby season[63] O'Connor was sacked by the club with immediate effect.[64] Geordan Murphy was placed in charge of the side on an interim basis.[64] Murphy was then made the permanent head coach on 18 December 2018 despite the team being on an eight match losing run.[65] Results did not improve and a final day defeat against Bath saw Leicester finish 11th in the Premiership, their worst ever finish.[66]

After a delayed start to the season due to the 2019 Rugby World Cup Tigers fortunes did not improve, and on 21 January 2020 it was announced after months of speculation that England's forwards coach Steve Borthwick would join the club as head coach once his duties with England were finished.[67] His start was later confirmed as July 2020.[68]

On 16 March 2020 the 2019-20 Premiership Rugby season was suspended for 5 weeks due to the COVID-19 pandemic in the United Kingdom,[69] with group training suspended indefinitely on 23 March.[70] After the cancellation of games the club implemented 25% wage cuts on all staff, including players,[71] on 22 April 2020 it was reported that Tigers players were unhappy with this and had engaged a solicitor to represent them, though this was quickly denied,[72] on 11 May 2020 CEO Simon Cohen left the club after an 8-year tenure and was replaced by Andrea Pinchen.[73] On 4 June 2020 it was revealed that Tigers were set to lose up to £5m of revenue during the coronavirus enforced shutdown,[74] eventually making 31 employees redundant.[75] On 29 June it was reported that the pay dispute which started in April could result in several players leaving the club after refusing to cut their pay,[76] with 5 players including Manu Tuilagi and Telusa Veainu leaving later that week after refusing to amend their contracts in light of the global pandemic.[75]

The completion of the delayed 2019-20 Premiership Rugby season between August and October saw another 11th-place finish for Leicester, saved from relegation only by a points deduction from Saracens for breaching the salary cap. On 13 November 2020, just 8 days before the start of the 2020-21 Premiership Rugby season Geordan Murphy left as director of rugby in a decision described as "mutual".[77]

Borthwick in charge (2020–2022)[edit]

With new head coach Steve Borthwick now in charge of team selection Leicester got off to a winning start against Gloucester.[78] In his first season at the club Borthwick guided Leicester to the 2020-21 European Rugby Challenge Cup final and 6th place in the league, securing Champions Cup rugby for the first time in two years.[79][80]

Tigers started the following season strongly, five wins in the opening five rounds was the club's best start in the Premiership era,[81] the club remained unbeaten for 15 games in all competitions, the second best start to a season ever,[82] but failed to tie the record after losing to Wasps on 9 January 2022.[83] A week later Leicester overcame an 18-point deficit in the second half to beat Connacht, a Hosea Saumaki try sealing the win on the final play of the game, and secure progress to their first Champions Cup knock out stages since 2016.[84]

In Europe, Leicester progressed past Clermont Auvergne over two legs, despite getting red cards in both matches,[85][86] but lost at home to Leinster 23–14, after falling behind 20–0 in the first half to the Irish side.[87]

Domestically they secured a first home play-off semi final since 2013, with two games to spare, after a 56–26 win against Bristol Bears.[88] Tigers' winger Chris Ashton broke the Premiership Rugby all-time try scoring record in this match, his hat-trick taking him to 95 career league tries.[88] In the semi-final they faced local rivals Northampton Saints, but much of the build up was focused on recently retired former captain Tom Youngs whose wife, Tiffany, passed away from cancer in week preceding the match. His brother Ben Youngs started the match, and it was his half back partner George Ford who inspired the victory scoring a "full house" with a try, conversion, penalty & drop goal for 22 points in a 27–13 win.[89]

In the final Leicester faced Saracens, a re-match of the 2010 & 2011 finals. Ford wasn't to last long in the final withdrawing injured in the 23rd minute & being replaced by Freddie Burns. With the matching tied 12-12 it was Burns who scored the 80th minute drop goal to win Leicester their 11th English title, only two seasons after finishing in 11th place.[90]

Speculation began that Borthwick was in line to succeed Eddie Jones as England head coach after the 2023 Rugby World Cup, but after a poor 2022 Autumn internationals Jones was replaced by Borthwick on 19 December 2022. He was initially replaced as Leicester head coach in an interim capacity by Richard Wigglesworth, the club's starting scrum half in the 2022 Premiership final & previous attack coach. On 22 February 2023, it was announced that Dan McKellar would take the role on a full time basis from 1 July 2023, previously having been Australia's forwards coach.[91]

Women's team[edit]

Leicester Tigers formed a women's team on 15 July 2021,[92] launched in partnership with Lichfield Ladies.[93]

Season summary[edit]

Season League Domestic Cup European Cup
Competition Position Points Play-Offs Competition Performance Competition Performance
1971–72 John Player Cup 1st round
1972–73 John Player Cup Quarter-final
1973–74 John Player Cup 1st round
1974–75 John Player Cup Did not qualify
1975–76 John Player Cup 1st round
1976–77 Midlands Merit 2nd 75% John Player Cup 2nd round
1977–78 Midlands Merit 5th 62.5% John Player Cup Finalist
1978–79 Midlands Merit 2nd 85.7% John Player Cup Champions
1979–80 Midlands Merit 1st 85.7% John Player Cup Champions
1980–81 Midlands Merit 1st 92.9% John Player Cup Champions
1981–82 Midlands Merit 1st 85.7% John Player Cup Semi-final
1982–83 Midlands Merit 1st 100% John Player Cup Finalist
1983–84 Midlands Merit 1st 100% John Player Cup 3rd round
1984–85 National Merit A
Midlands Merit
John Player Cup Quarter-final
1985–86 National Merit A 4th 70% John Player Cup Semi-final
1986–87 National Merit A 2nd 75% John Player Cup Semi-final
1987–88 Courage League Division 1 1st 37 John Player Cup 4th round
1988–89 Courage League Division 1 6th 13 Pilkington Cup Finalist
1989–90 Courage League Division 1 5th 12 Pilkington Cup Quarter-final
1990–91 Courage League Division 1 4th 16 Pilkington Cup 4th round
1991–92 Courage League Division 1 6th 13 Pilkington Cup Semi-final
1992–93 Courage League Division 1 3rd 18 Pilkington Cup Champions
1993–94 Courage League Division 1 2nd 28 Pilkington Cup Finalist
1994–95 Courage League Division 1 1st 31 Pilkington Cup Semi-final
1995–96 Courage League Division 1 2nd 30 Pilkington Cup Finalist
1996–97 Courage League Division 1 4th 29 Pilkington Cup Champions Heineken Cup Finalist
1997–98 Premiership 4th 26 Tetley's Bitter Cup 5th round Heineken Cup Quarter-final
1998–99 Premiership 1st 44 Tetley's Bitter Cup Quarter-final Did not enter N/A
1999–2000 Premiership 1st 51 Tetley's Bitter Cup 5th round Heineken Cup Group stage
2000–01 Premiership 1st 81 Champions* Tetley's Bitter Cup Semi-final Heineken Cup Champions
2001–02 Premiership 1st 83 Quarter-final* Powergen Cup Quarter-final Heineken Cup Champions
2002–03 Premiership 6th 55 Wildcard Winner Powergen Cup Semi-final Heineken Cup Quarter-final
2003–04 Premiership 5th 55 Wildcard Winner Powergen Cup 6th round Heineken Cup Group stage
2004–05 Premiership 1st 78 Finalist Powergen Cup 6th round Heineken Cup Semi-final
2005–06 Premiership 2nd 68 Finalist Powergen Cup Semi-final Heineken Cup Quarter-final
2006–07 Premiership 2nd 71 Champions EDF Energy Cup Champions Heineken Cup Finalist
2007–08 Premiership 4th 64 Finalist EDF Energy Cup Finalist Heineken Cup Group stage
2008–09 Premiership 1st 71 Champions EDF Energy Cup Group stage Heineken Cup Finalist
2009–10 Premiership 1st 73 Champions LV Cup Group stage Heineken Cup Group stage
2010–11 Premiership 1st 78 Finalist LV Cup Group stage Heineken Cup Quarter-final
2011–12 Premiership 2nd 74 Finalist LV Cup Champions Heineken Cup Group stage
2012–13 Premiership 2nd 74 Champions LV Cup Group stage Heineken Cup Quarter-final
2013–14 Premiership 3rd 74 Semi-final LV Cup Group stage Heineken Cup Quarter-final
2014–15 Premiership 3rd 68 Semi-final LV Cup Semi-final Champions Cup Group stage
2015–16 Premiership 4th 65 Semi-final None N/A Champions Cup Semi-final
2016–17 Premiership 4th 66 Semi-final Anglo-Welsh Cup Champions Champions Cup Group stage
2017–18 Premiership 5th 63 Did not qualify Anglo-Welsh Cup Group stage Champions Cup Group stage
2018–19 Premiership 11th 41 Did not qualify Premiership Rugby Cup Group stage Champions Cup Group stage
2019–20 Premiership 11th 29 Did not qualify Premiership Rugby Cup Group stage Challenge Cup Semi-final
2020–21 Premiership 6th 54 Did not qualify No Competition N/A Challenge Cup Finalist
2021–22 Premiership 1st 94 Champions Premiership Cup Semi-final Champions Cup Quarter-final
2022–23 Premiership 3rd 59 Semi-final Premiership Cup Group stage Champions Cup Quarter–final
2023–24 Premiership 8th 45 Did not qualify Premiership Cup Finalist Champions Cup Round of 16

* In 2001 & 2002 the winners of the league were considered champions with the winners of the playoffs considered champions from 2003 onward.

Premiership play-offs[edit]

Leicester Tigers playing in the 2008 Premiership Final against Wasps.

Leicester have participated in 16 of the 22 Premiership Play Offs, reaching nine consecutive finals between 2005 and 2013. Leicester finished first in 2004–05 going directly to the final; in Martin Johnson & Neil Back's last game for the club they lost 43–19 to Wasps. The following season Tigers finished second beating London Irish 40–8 in their first Play Off semi final before losing the final 45–20 to Sale.

In 2007 Leicester won their first title via the playoffs. They defeated Bristol 26–14 in semi-final before beating Gloucester 44–16 at Twickenham.[94] On 18 May 2008 Leicester defeated Gloucester at Kingsholm to become the first team to win a Premiership semi-final playoff away from home.[95] Leicester lost the 2008 final 26–16 to Wasps.[96]

In 2008–09 Tigers topped the table and beat Bath 24–10 in the semi-final. The final was the closest yet, Tigers winning 10–9 against London Irish.[48] In 2010 the side retained the trophy winning 33–27 against Saracens, Dan Hipkiss scored the decisive try in the closing stages.[49] Tigers reached the 2010–11 final for a rematch with Saracens losing 22–18.

2011–12 saw Tigers finish second in the table and beat Saracens 24–15 in the semi-finals at Welford Road. In the 2012 final Harlequins beat Leicester 30–23. In 2013 Leicester finished 2nd and beat Harlequins 33–16 in the semi-final at Welford Road. Leicester won their tenth Premiership title by beating Northampton, 37–17.[97] These nine consecutive finals is a record for consecutive appearances in a Premiership play-off final.

In 2014 Leicester finished third and lost, 21–20, to Northampton in the semi-final at Franklin's Gardens. In 2015 Leicester finished third and lost to Bath, 47–10, in the semi-finals. In 2016 Leicester finished fourth and travelled to Allianz Park where they lost to Saracens, 44–17. In 2017 Leicester finished fourth and faced Wasps at the Ricoh Arena, losing 21–20.

After a four-year spell of missing the play offs Leicester returned to the play offs in 2022 after finishing the regular season top. In the semi-final they beat Northampton Saints 27–14. In the final they faced Saracens, Freddie Burns scored an 80th minute drop goal to win the final 15-12 and seal Leicester's 11th English Championship.[98]

The next season in 2023 Leicester finished third and lost to Sale Sharks, 21–13, after travelling to the AJ Bell Stadium in Salford.


Leicester hold the record for most Premiership titles (11), the most consecutive Premiership Final appearances (9) and the most Play off appearances (14). They were the first team to achieve an away semi-final victory in the Premiership play-offs (against Gloucester at Kingsholm on 18 May 2008).

1st XV[edit]

Leicester A (Reserve team)[edit]

Champions (4) 2005, 2006, 2010, 2011
Runners-up (1) 2007
Champions (5) 1895, 1896, 1898, 1899, 1902

Name and colours[edit]


Martin Johnson and Graham Rowntree in Tigers traditional colours during the friendly match vs. Bath in 2007.

The club's formal name is Leicester Football Club but is widely known by the nickname "Tigers". The first known use of the name was after a game against Bedford School in February 1885, the Leicester Daily Post reporting that "the Tiger stripes were keeping well together".[99] The origin of the nickname is uncertain most probably coming from the side's chocolate and yellow playing kit, but it may have come from the club's links to the Leicestershire Regiment,[100] who had received the nickname 'Tigers' after serving in India, and from 1825 had worn a cap-badge with a 'royal' tiger to mark the connection.

In their early years the side were also known as "The Death or Glory Boys" on account of their black shirts.[100]

Player identification[edit]

In the 1926–27 season Leicester started using letters to identify their forwards; The Birmingham Post report for the match against Bath on 6 October 1926 noted "Leicester's forwards were picked out easily as their jerseys were decorated with large bold letters A-G". On 12 September 1931 against Old Blues the practice was expanded to the whole team.[101]

This tradition lasted until 1998 when Premiership Rugby rules forced Leicester to abandon lettering and Tigers first wore numbers on 5 September 1998 against Harlequins at Welford Road.[101]

Since then Leicester have only returned to letters for non-competition friendlies against sides such as Australia[102] or the New Zealand Maori.[103] On the current kit the letters are displayed in small on the front of the jersey.


Tigers' very first kit was black with white shorts and black socks, with the club's crest in the centre of the chest. From 1884 to 1887, the club played in chocolate and yellow shirts, likely giving rise to the club's nickname, white shorts and black socks before experimenting with claret and French grey horizontal stripes between 1887 and 1891.[104]

The first use of the scarlet, green and white was on 3 October 1891 against Wolverton at Belgrave Cricket & Cycle Ground. However, for the 1891–92 season, the pattern was vertical stripes.[105] It was not until 1895 that the now-traditional scarlet, green and white horizontal stripes were introduced to the jersey, paired with black shorts and socks until 1906.[104] The Tigers then played three season between 1906 and 1909 in white shirts with navy shorts, the first two seasons with a leaping tiger logo on the left breast[106] before reverting to a scarlet, green and white striped jersey, while retaining the navy shorts. This new kit layout lasted until 1947 when the navy shorts were swapped for white.

The Tigers kit and colours did not materially change between 1947 and 1999, only slight variations in the sizes of the stripes, the addition of a manufacturer's logo in 1975, a sponsor in 1988 and in 1991 the addition of the club crest for the first time since 1908.

In 1999, the Tigers switched to a darker green and have played in a variety of kit designs since.


Summary of kit manufacturers and sponsors[edit]

Seasons Manufacturer Sponsor
1991–1992 Cotton
1992–1993 Ansells
1993–1995 Tetley Bitter
1995–1996 GoldStar
1996–1997 Cotton
1997–1999 Next
1999–2002 Vauxhall
2002–2008 Bradstone
2008–2012 Caterpillar
2012–2015 Canterbury
2015–2016 KooGa
2016–2017 Holland and Barrett
2017–2020 Kukri Sports
2020–Present Samurai Topps Tiles


The North stand

The club plays its home games at Mattioli Wood Welford Road. The ground was opened in 1892 and the first stands accommodated 3,000 spectators.[107] The clubhouse was built on the Aylestone Road end in 1909,[11] the Members' & Crumbie Stands were built just before and just after the First World War respectively. A stand was built at the Welford Road end in 1995, initially called the Alliance & Leicester Stand it is currently known as the Mattioli Woods Stand.[108] The total ground capacity is currently 25,849 after redevelopments in 2008 and 2015.

Before redevelopment of Welford Road began in 2008 the club explored other options. On 23 November 2004 the club announced that it had entered into a 50–50 joint venture with the city's main football club, Leicester City, to purchase City's current ground, Leicester City Stadium. If the purchase had gone through, the Tigers would have surrendered their lease on Welford Road and moved into Walkers Stadium.[109] However, after several months of talks, the two clubs ended any ground share plans in July 2005.[110]

On 11 June 2007 the club announced plans that it was working for a redevelopment plan which would raise the capacity from 17,498 to 25,000 by 2011.[111] On 20 February 2008 Leicester Tigers received planning consent for the £60million redevelopment of Welford Road. The first phase of the development was a new 10,000 seat North Stand (Granby Halls side), taking overall capacity from 17,498 to 24,000.[112] In the summer of 2008 work began on the construction of the new North Stand. The work was completed for the first home game of the 2009-10 season against Newcastle Falcons.[113]

At the end of the 2008–09 season three home games were played at the King Power Stadium, then known as the Walkers Stadium, due to demolition of the old north stand. These saw Tigers play Bath twice, a 20–15 win in the Heineken Cup quarter finals and a victory in the Premiership Play Off semi finals as well as a 73–3 win against Bristol. Tigers have also played two Heineken Cup Semi-final games at the King Power Stadium, against Toulose and Llanelli Scarlets in 2005 and 2007 respectively, but the ground was designated as a neutral venue for both.

On 27 February 2015 Tigers announced plans to continue the redevelopment of Welford Road by replacing the clubhouse and temporary West Stand with a new permanent building with a 3,100 capacity.[114] Work started on 28 May 2015[115] and was completed by January 2016.

In October 2020, Mattioli Woods extended their naming rights deal to include the entire stadium for 5 seasons until 2024–25. The stadium became Mattioli Woods Welford Road.[116]

Current squad[edit]

Senior squad[edit]

The Leicester Tigers senior squad for the 2023–24 season is:[117][118]

Note: Flags indicate national union under World Rugby eligibility rules. Players may hold more than one non-World Rugby nationality.

Player Position Union
Charlie Clare Hooker England England
Julián Montoya Hooker Argentina Argentina
Finn Theobald-Thomas Hooker England England
Archie Vanes Hooker England England
Dan Cole Prop England England
James Cronin Prop Ireland Ireland
Joe Heyes Prop England England
Tim Hoyt Prop England England
Will Hurd Prop Scotland Scotland
Nicky Smith Prop Wales Wales
James Whitcombe Prop England England
Ollie Chessum Lock England England
Cameron Henderson Lock Scotland Scotland
Tom Manz Lock England England
George Martin Lock England England
Harry Wells Lock England England
Corne Beets Back row South Africa South Africa
Finn Carnduff Lock England England
Olly Cracknell Back row Wales Wales
Kyle Hatherell Back row South Africa South Africa
Emeka Ilione Back row England England
Hanro Liebenberg Back row South Africa South Africa
Tommy Reffell Back row Wales Wales
Matt Rogerson Back row England England
Player Position Union
Jack van Poortvliet Scrum-half England England
Tom Whiteley Scrum-half England England
Ben Youngs Scrum-half England England
Handré Pollard Fly-half South Africa South Africa
Jamie Shillcock Fly-half England England
Solomone Kata Centre Tonga Tonga
Dan Kelly Centre England England
Izaia Perese Centre Australia Australia
Joseph Woodward Centre England England
Josh Bassett Wing England England
Ollie Hassell-Collins Wing England England
Harry Simmons Wing England England
Anthony Watson Wing England England
Mike Brown Fullback England England
Freddie Steward Fullback England England

Senior Academy squad[edit]

Leicester Tigers' Academy squad is:[119]

Note: Flags indicate national union under World Rugby eligibility rules. Players may hold more than one non-World Rugby nationality.

Player Position Union
Harry Clarke Hooker England England
Seb Smith Hooker England England
Cameron Miell Prop South Africa South Africa
Henry Mountford Prop England England
Archie van der Flier Prop England England
Lewis Chessum Lock England England
Osian Thomas Lock Wales Wales
Harry Beddall Back row Wales Wales
Joshua Manz Back row England England
George Perkins Back row England England
Sam Williams Back row England England
Player Position Union
Ollie Allan Scrum-half England England
George Daniels Fly-half England England
Charlie Davies Centre England England
Elliot Gourlay Centre Scotland Scotland
Charlie Myall Centre England England
Jack Kinder Wing England England
Malelili Satala Fullback England England

Notable former players[edit]

Record appearances and scorers[edit]

David Matthews holds the record for most appearances for Leicester Tigers with 502 appearances between 1955 and 1974. Percy Lawrie is the only man to score more than 200 tries for the club, scoring a record 206 between 1907 and 1927. Dusty Hare is the club's all-time highest points scorer with 4,507 between 1976 and 1989.


173 players from 15 different nations have been selected to represent their national side whilst a member of Leicester. The first was Jack Miles who was selected for England in 1903, Leicester's first non-English international was Scotland's Jock Lawrie in 1924. The club's first non-British or Irish player selected for international duty was Canada's Dave Lougheed when he played against USA in August 1998.

Lions Tourists[edit]

The following are players who have represented the Lions while playing for Leicester:

3 tours:

2 tours:

1 tour

Italics denote a player who appeared on another tour whilst a member of another club.

2013: Ben Youngs†, Tom Youngs, Manu Tuilagi, Geoff Parling
2009: Harry Ellis
2005: Julian White, Ben Kay, Lewis Moody, Geordan Murphy, Ollie Smith
2001: Dorian West
1997: Will Greenwood, Eric Miller
1993: Tony Underwood
1983: Dusty Hare
1980: Paul Dodge
1974: Alan Old
1971: Rodger Arneil
1959: Tony O'Reilly, Phil Horrocks-Taylor
1936: Bernard Gadney, Alexander Obolensky, Charles Beamish
1930: Doug Prentice, George Beamish, Joe Kendrew
1910: Ken Wood
1908: F.S. Jackson, John Jackett, Tom Smith
1903: Alfred Hind

Ben Youngs was selected to tour for a second time in 2017, but turned down the offer for family reasons.[120]

Rugby World Cup[edit]

The following are players which have represented their countries at the Rugby World Cup, whilst playing for Leicester:

Tournament Players selected England players Other national team players
1987 2 Dean Richards, Rory Underwood
1991 2 Dean Richards, Rory Underwood
1995 6 Neil Back, Martin Johnson, Dean Richards, Graham Rowntree, Rory Underwood, Tony Underwood
1999 11 Neil Back, Richard Cockerill, Martin Corry, Darren Garforth, Will Greenwood, Austin Healey, Martin Johnson, Leon Lloyd, Graham Rowntree, Dave Lougheed Canada, Fritz van Heerden South Africa
2003 8 Neil Back, Martin Corry, Martin Johnson, Ben Kay, Lewis Moody, Julian White, Dorian West, Dan Lyle United States
2007 11 George Chuter, Martin Corry, Dan Hipkiss, Ben Kay, Lewis Moody, Marcos Ayerza Argentina, Seru Rabeni Fiji, Geordan Murphy Ireland, Martin Castrogiovanni Italy, Alesana Tuilagi Samoa, Jim Hamilton Scotland
2011 12 Dan Cole, Tom Croft, Louis Deacon, Toby Flood, Manu Tuilagi, Thomas Waldrom, Ben Youngs, Marcos Ayerza Argentina, Horacio Agulla Argentina, Geordan Murphy Ireland, Martin Castrogiovanni Italy, Alesana Tuilagi Samoa
2015 8 Dan Cole, Ben Youngs, Tom Youngs, Marcos Ayerza Argentina, Vereniki Goneva Fiji, Leonardo Ghiraldini Italy, Michele Rizzo Italy, Opeti Fonua Tonga
2019 8 Dan Cole, George Ford, Ellis Genge, Jonny May, Manu Tuilagi, Ben Youngs[121] Sione Kalamafoni Tonga, Telusa Veainu Tonga[122]
2023 10 Ollie Chessum, Dan Cole, George Martin, Freddie Steward, Ben Youngs[123][124] Julián Montoya Argentina,[125] Jasper Wiese South Africa[126] Tommy Reffell Wales,[127] Solomone Kata Tonga,[128] Handré Pollard South Africa[129]

International captains[edit]


* Martin Corry was also captain for the majority of a Lions test in 2005 after Brian O'Driscoll left the field injured, however he is not considered the official captain for that match.


The following have been appointed club captain:

World Rugby Hall of Fame[edit]

The following people associated with club have been inducted into the World Rugby Hall of Fame.

Team of the Century and Walk of Legends[edit]

Tigers have named two "best" teams in recent times. On 1 November 2000 to celebrate the coming millennium a panel of former Tigers players and administrators named a Team of the century; whilst from October 2008 to February 2009 to celebrate the building of the then named Caterpillar Stand fans were invited to vote on a Walk of Legends in partnership with the Leicester Mercury.[139][140]

Team of the century[141]
Position Nationality Player Tigers Career
Full back Scotland Ken Scotland 40 games 1961–62
Right wing England Alastair Smallwood 64 games 1920–25
Right centre England Clive Woodward 148 games 1979–85
Left centre England Paul Dodge 434 games 1975–93
Left wing England Rory Underwood 236 games 1983–97
Fly Half England Les Cusworth 365 games 1978–90
Scrum half England Bernard Gadney 170 games 1929–39
Loosehad Prop England Bob Stirling 75 games 1948–53
Hooker England Peter Wheeler 349 games 1969–85
Tighthead Prop England Darren Garforth 1991–
Lock England Martin Johnson (c) 1989–
Lock Ireland George Beamish 118 games 1924–33
Blindside Flanker England Doug Prentice 239 games 1923–31
Opendside Flanker England Neil Back 1990–
No. 8 England Dean Richards 314 games 1982–97
Coach: England Chalkie White
Walk of Legends[142]
Position Nationality Player Tigers Career
Full back England Dusty Hare 394 games 1976–89
Right wing Ireland John Duggan 302 games 1970–80
Right centre England Clive Woodward 148 games 1979–85
Left centre England Paul Dodge 434 games 1975–93
Left wing England Rory Underwood 236 games 1983–97
Fly Half Wales Bleddyn Jones 333 games 1969–78
Scrum half England Austin Healey 248 games 1996–2006
Loosehad Prop England Graham Rowntree 398 games 1990–2007
Hooker England Peter Wheeler 349 games 1969–85
Tighthead Prop England Steve Redfern 241 games 1976–84
Lock England Martin Johnson 362 games 1989–2005
Lock England Matt Poole 223 games 1988–98
Blindside Flanker England Graham Willars 338 games 1959–87
Opendside Flanker England David Matthews 502 games 1955–74
No. 8 England Dean Richards 314 games 1982–97

At the time the Team of the Century was announced Garforth, Johnson and Back were still current players.


Current coaches[edit]


Past coaches[edit]

As of 18 May 2024
Name Nat. From To P W D L Win% Honours
Bob Dwyer  Australia July 1996 14 February 1998 70 52 1 17 74.26 1997 Pilkington Cup
Dean Richards  England 22 Feb 1998 2 Feb 2004 210 138 6 66 65.71 1998–99 Premiership, 1999–00 Premiership, 2000–01 Premiership, 2000–01 Zurich Championship, 2000–01 Heineken Cup, 2001–02 Premiership, 2001–02 Heineken Cup
John Wells  England 3 Feb 2004 14 May 2005 45 31 5 9 68.88
Pat Howard  Australia July 2005 20 May 2007 75 49 4 22 65.33 2006–07 Premiership, 2006–07 Anglo Welsh Cup
Richard Cockerill (Caretaker)  England July 2007 3 November 2007 8 5 0 3 62.50
Marcelo Loffreda  Argentina 10 November 2007 31 May 2008 28 15 0 13 53.57
Heyneke Meyer  South Africa July 2008 24 January 2009 21 13 1 7 61.90
Richard Cockerill  England 15 February 2009 2 January 2017 276 178 11 87 64.49 2008–09 Premiership, 2009–10 Premiership, 2011-12 Anglo-Welsh Cup, 2012–13 Premiership
Aaron Mauger (Caretaker)  New Zealand 2 January 2017 25 March 2017 12 7 0 5 58.33 2016-17 Anglo-Welsh Cup
Matt O'Connor  Australia 26 March 2017 3 September 2018 38 19 0 19 50.00
Geordan Murphy  Ireland 3 September 2018 13 November 2020 64 21 1 42 32.81
Steve Borthwick  England 13 November 2020 19 December 2022 78 53 1 24 67.94 2021–22 Premiership
Richard Wigglesworth (Caretaker)  England 19 December 2022 14 May 2023 16 9 0 7 56.25
Dan McKellar  Australia 1 July 2023 30 16 0 14 53.33


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External links[edit]