When sides lose a number of key players from their squad and sign 'relatively' unknown individuals you always wonder what the result will be? The gut feeling says that things will take time to settle and that the side in question will start the season slower than everyone at the club would like. However so far this year the Leicester Tigers have defied this assumption and after five rounds are sitting contently in third position in the Aviva Premiership table.
The Leicester Tigers are a club where success is expected rather than hoped for. It is a club that deems a season without knockout Premiership and European rugby a failure. These expectations mean that, by in large, the last few years simply haven't been good enough. Of course there have been extenuating circumstances with numerous injuries however the view from the outside is that this year it has to work, or else.
Last season Welford Road was hidden under a cloud of angst and pressure that resulted from stuttering performances and having to rely on winning ugly. The emotional reaction of Richard Cockerill after their victory over Wasps in Round 21 said it all, he is normally a strong character however we all saw the tears in his eyes that day. Now, a few months on the introduction of Aaron Mauger and productive pre-season has delivered a brand new air of optimism that we all can feel.
Geoff Parling, Brad Thorn, Louis Deacon, Anthony Allen and Julian Salvi all left or retired from the Tigers last year and their boots were filled by individuals that certainly aren't as well know to all. However since the opening fixture of the year Leicester's 'new boys' have excelled. Mike Williams, Mike Fitzgerald, Brendon O'Connor and Lachlan McCaffrey in particular have stood up in the pack and slotted straight into the Leicester way. In the backline Peter Betham and Telusa Veainu have been sticks of dynamite and without question have assisted Vereniki Goneva in re-finding the form that delivered him to the RPA Players' Player of the Year Award in 2014.
Of course the Tigers aren't perfect just yet however Aaron Mauger certainly has started to stamp his authority on their attack and develop their all around game plan. The Tigers' set piece and forward play, Richard Cockerill's area of expertise, has never been in doubt however last season they didn't have anything meaningful to show for going forwards - they were an east west side. Now they've already delivered two European trying scoring bonus points, notched up 6 scores in 5 domestic games and have a certain Jean de Villiers arriving shortly.
Right now Saracens are the form team in both competitions however the Tigers are starting to tick all the right boxes. Welford Road is signing again, it is early days however a confident and happy Leicester Tigers know exactly what it takes to press on from a positive start to the year.