Dan McKellar on Leicester Tigers - A Season Preview

Dan McKellar on Leicester Tigers - A Season Preview

This has been a summer of change at Mattioli Woods Welford Road.

After Steve Borthwick departed to take over England in December, Leicester Tigers put up a stern defence of their Gallagher Premiership Rugby title but eventually succumbed to Sale Sharks in the semi-finals.

This season, Dan McKellar has arrived as Borthwick’s permanent successor and the Australian is already making his mark.

Tigers are aiming to play a more expansive and thoughtful style of rugby under their new head coach and that style has already caught the eye in the Premiership Rugby Cup, where they won their first four matches, including a 60-7 victory against a strong Newcastle Falcons.

Still hoping to keep some of that long-established Tigers DNA, where the side dominate their opposition with a strong and uncompromising forward pack, McKellar has high expectations for the season to come as he embarks on his first foray at the helm.

“A team that likes to compete hard, plays the game physically with that edge,” McKellar said when asked what to expect from his team.

“A team that values set-piece, defence and that attacks in the right areas of the field. You’ve got to score tries these days. 

“I think we have seen in recent years that average tries per game’s gone up in the league and the reality is you need to be able to challenge defensive lines with what you do with attack.

“It doesn’t mean all of a sudden you become the Harlem Globetrotters, but you do need to have options and be able to win a game 9-6 and be able to win a game 38-22.

“A great challenge, really strong competition, 10 teams that have all got quality and depth across the board, well coaches. I look forward to what’s ahead.”

Ins and Outs

From the outset, much of Tigers’ recruitment appears to be solid work. 

Contending with the retirement of Chris Ashton and the departure of several experienced players, such as Anthony Watson, they have brought in real quality to create greater depth.

The signings of Josh Bassett and Ollie Hassell-Collins Midlands immediately addresses the departures of Ashton and Watson on the wing, while the arrival of Tonga international Solomone Kata from Exeter Chiefs is shrewd.

The versatile Jamie Shillcock, who has signed from Japan’s Mitsubishi Sagamihara DynaBoars, gives McKellar a player capable of covering numerous backline positions, while Kieran Wilkinson’s arrival from Sale Sharks will see Charlie Atkinson pushed for the starting fly-half slot.


Up front, Matt Rogerson and Mike Williams bring a wealth of Gallagher Premiership Rugby experience, while Kyle Hatherell comes back to the league as an Invested Champions Cup winner with La Rochelle.

Ins*:* Josh Bassett (Harlequins), Kyle Hatherell (La Rochelle), Jamie Shillcock (Mitsubishi Sagamihara DynaBoars), Finn Theobald-Thomas (Gloucester Rugby), Ollie Hassell-Collins (London Irish), Solomone Kata (Exeter Chiefs), Sam Carter (Ulster), Joe Powell (London Irish), Matt Rogerson (London Irish), Kieran Wilkinson (Sale Sharks), Mike Williams (Exeter Chiefs), Elliot Gourlay (Sale Sharks), Ben Woollett (Jersey Reds)

Outs*:* Sean Jansen (Connacht), Sam Wolstenholme (Bristol Bears), Chris Ashton (retired), Tom West (Saracens), Eli Snyman (Benetton), Calum Green (released), George Loose (released), Kini Murimurivalu (released), Hosea Saumaki (released), Riley Williams (released), Harry Potter (Western Force), Chester Owen (Coventry), Anthony Watson (released)


Since arriving at Mattioli Woods Welford Road, Julian Montoya has scored 21 tries for Leicester Tigers, making him a must-have in Premiership Rugby's official fantasy game.

Largely the beneficiary of the club’s dominant set-piece, the Argentina hooker is one of the most important figures at Tigers, his try-scoring prowess helping the team win key games and compete at the top of the league table.

Even with Tigers looking to play a more expansive style of rugby under McKellar, being dominant is what the side is built on and you can expect to see Montoya benefiting from this season and bagging you plenty of fantasy points in the process.

One to watch

Lewis Chessum captained England at the World Rugby U20 Championships this summer, and the second row will be expecting to take on a more significant role with his club side this season.

With older brother, Ollie, and George Martin away with England at the World Cup in France, there is certainly a place up for grabs in the early part of this season.

Aged 20, Chessum has already shown much promise in a young career and, with experienced campaigners Harry Wells and Cameron Henderson to learn from, he is in safe hands.

2023 prospects

Leicester Tigers finished in the top four for a second successive campaign last season. Having to contend with the mid-season departure of Borthwick and defence coach, Kevin Sinfield, the side rallied excellently to guarantee themselves play-off rugby again.

Now under the guidance of McKellar, a full pre-season under their belt and five Premiership Rugby Cup games, it should be expected that this squad - which has improved its depth drastically - will be pushing for the top four yet again.

To start their new Gallagher Premiership Rugby campaign, McKellar’s men are going to be challenged. Playing Sale Sharks, Saracens, Harlequins, Northampton Saints and Gloucester Rugby before December, a good start is very much the top priority.

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