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Geordan Murphy: Tigers glad to aid England but the club is first and foremost

 Will EvansGeordan Murphy reckons the selection of seven Leicester players in Eddie Jones’s new 45-man squad nails the myth that his club have no interest in helping England.

Jones recently hinted that relationships with two Premiership clubs were less than harmonious, with Tigers assumed to be a guilty party following caustic remarks aimed Jones’ way last season by Richard Cockerill regarding Manu Tuilagi’s fitness.

“I have no interest in getting the players fit for England,” said Cockerill before the Six Nations. “The only thing for me is to get Manu, or whoever, back on the field. My objective isn’t to get them fit for Eddie.”

However, call-ups for Tigers stars Tuilagi, Tom Youngs, Dan Cole, Ben Youngs, Ellis Genge, Mike Williams and openside sensation Will Evans are proof that bygones are bygones and that Leicester’s proud tradition of supplying England players continues.

Assistant coach Murphy told The Rugby Paper: “We’re happy for the guys selected and it’s an opportunity for new guys like Mike and Will to show their faces and they’ll get a lot of good experience working with the England coaches.

“There is an English core to Leicester’s team. Yes, we’ve got a few foreigners but if you look at our front row we’ve got Dan, Ellis and Tom, our second row is completely England-qualified with Dom Barrow, Ed Slater, Mike Fitzgerald and Graham Kitchener, while in our back row we have Will, Tom Croft, Brendan O’Connor and Lachlan McCaffrey.

“In the backs there’s Ben Youngs, Sam Harrison, Freddie Burns, Manu, Mat Tait, Adam Thompstone and now Tom Brady, so that’s a pretty English team and we’ve got George Catchpole and Jack Roberts pushing through.

“Underneath that, we’ve got talented lads like George Worth, Ben White and Harry Simmons maturing quickly, so on the whole our team is English and anybody who thinks Leicester Tigers don’t want to help England is being badly misguided.”

Evans, along with Harlequins centre Joe Marchant, is one of two members of England’s World Cup-winning U20s side to earn senior call-ups and Murphy reckons the Norwich-born 19-year-old has a big future – if he can break into Tigers’ first team.

He said: “Will’s a great young lad who’s been training with us for a number of years now. We appreciate he’s a tremendous talent, but in saying that he’s got a bit to learn still and has some of the world’s best back rowers to get past.

Manu Tuilagi“Will’s a smart guy, though, and his form at the end of last season when he was given an opportunity was great. He found it physically difficult at senior level but he’s put a bit of weight on now and his performances for the U20s were exceptional.

“He was one of the standout players for England, which was great, and I’m excited for guys like him and Mike Williams getting call-ups. Hopefully they’ll both go from strength-to-strength now and can achieve their full potentials with us too.”

Tigers’ talk has centred around the impending arrival of Aussie playmaker Matt Toomua and how that may impact on Tuilagi’s position at inside-centre.

Murphy reckons there is no issue, however, explaining: “It’s a nice conundrum to have and it’s very easily solved. Manu can play 12, 13 or on the wing, while Toomua plays 10, 12 or 13, so we’ll be able to work around that to the team’s benefit.

“Eddie Jones sees Manu as a 12. We’ll speak to Manu and see what he wants, but first and foremost we have to worry about Leicester.

“We all want our players selected by England and to do what’s best for them, but at the end of the day you have to play well for your club side to get selected and if Manu’s smashing it and doing what he does best for us, the rest will follow.

“We’re working hard on Manu’s skill-set to play at 12. He’s a good defender there, but he’s also made a pretty big impression at 13 so we’ll just go week-to-week and change things around if needed when Matt arrives.

“The important thing is to get Manu playing again. He’s been unlucky with injury but players can quickly turn the corner and come back – ask Jonny Wilkinson! He’s had a lot of time out but I’m confident he’ll be back to his best.”

While new signings Toomua and JP Pietersen have attracted headlines, Murphy is equally keen to see what impact winger Brady can make.

Of the new arrival, Murphy said: “Tom Brady has been very strong for Sale and is a quality player. We’re lucky to have some real gas in our back three now with guys like him and Mat Tait. Tom’s very abrasive and showed he can finish, so hopefully he’ll do the same for us.”

Ex-full-back Murphy captained Leicester to the Premiership title in 2013, but since then the trophy cabinet has remained bare – a trend he wants to reverse.

Murphy add: “It was so long ago I can’t remember lifting the trophy!

“Silverware is what Leicester is about, the fans expect it and want to see us playing good rugby as well, so there is that bit of added pressure.

“But we’ve got some stability in our coaching team now with Aaron Mauger in his second year and we’re excited about the squad we’ve put together.

“We want to play entertaining rugby but with a tough edge, so we’ll look to be the all-round package and be up there at the end of the season.”


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