Former England scrum-half Ben Youngs says this season’s Premiership title race will be “very tight” after Leicester Tigers returned to winning ways against Northampton Saints.
The win took the 2022 champions seven points clear of bottom club Newcastle.
“Each team on their day – anyone can beat anyone,” Youngs said.
Tigers’ win was only their second in six games this season but their slow start has had several mitigating factors.
Not only are the side under the guidance of new head coach Dan McKellar this term, but the squad has only recently welcomed back players who featured at the World Cup.
The Saints game came a week after World Cup-winning South Africans Handre Pollard, Francois van Wyk, Hanro Liebenberg and Jasper Wiese returned to the Tigers’ ranks, along with England’s Youngs, Ollie Chessum, Freddie Steward and Dan Cole.
‘They were waiting for the cavalry to arrive’
Youngs says the fact that Leicester have taken their time to get going this season is understandable.
“We’re realistic,” he told BBC Radio 5 Live. “The first four or five games we played, there were about 10 of us missing but the squad’s together now and we’ll get there.”
McKellar, who took charge after Steve Borthwick became England head coach, said the win over Saints gives Tigers a platform to move on from as they continue to “build cohesion within the group”.
“Dan’s a great guy and he’s very clear about what he wants to do – I’m excited,” Youngs said.
“They can only do so much in pre-season when they were waiting for the cavalry to arrive a little bit with the influence these guys can have – but it’s great to be back.”
Youngs, England’s most capped men’s player, says calling time on his record-breaking international career will help him “narrow his focus” on just playing for Tigers – something he calls “comforting” and “special”.
And with their crop of internationals now back, Tigers will be hoping to climb the table towards the top four in a new-look 10-team Premiership reduced from 13 clubs following the demises of Worcester, Wasps and London Irish over the past year.
‘You want rugby to be a great product’
After six games, four points separate the Premiership’s top five sides with leaders Sale Sharks and second-placed Bath meeting each other on Friday in an early-season show of their title credentials.
And with only a third of the season gone, Youngs says the rest of the campaign promises to be highly competitive.
“I think it’s going to be very, very tight,” he said.
“There are some good sides and there’ll be some quality rugby – it’s exciting and I don’t envision anyone running away with it in the top two spots.
“It’ll probably come down to the last weekend – which is what you want. You want rugby to be a great product.”
Tom Youngs was talking to BBC rugby union correspondent Chris Jones on BBC Radio 5 Live.