Leicester's refreshing youth policy is a reminder that size isn't everything in rugby

Bob Baker
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Saracens v Leicester Tigers - Aviva Premiership Semi Final
Thacker embodies Leicester's refreshing approach to academy players (Source: Getty)

Harry Thacker, the 22-year-old Leicester hooker, is not unfamiliar with crossing the whitewash, and scored his 10th club try in a dynamic display as the Tigers bounced back from an embarrassing Champions Cup defeat last weekend to beat Northampton Saints 27-20 on Saturday.

Thacker is continuing the trend of outstanding Welford Road hookers who are typically two feet shorter than the national average, while players of the same position are disposed of by other Premiership clubs ahead of academy graduation, deemed too short for top competition.

It happened to England Under-20 hooker Arthur Ellis of Wasps, who shared all of Thacker’s attributes but was blessed with even more skill with ball in hand.

Read more: Marler set to defy injury and line up in Six Nations opener

Ellis is currently registering notable performances for Championship high-flyers Ealing, who ran London Irish close at the weekend before eventually missing out 22-23.

Historically, hookers have always swung between two marginally taller props whose respective girth circumferences out-measure their vertical metrics, but the delta at Leicester has been notably marked.

The club are enduring a torrid transitional period but have consistently awarded opportunities to their academy players with the promise and necessary will to reach their respective potentials.

Rugby continues its physical evolution, but it remains refreshing to see those with the greatest natural ability not being prematurely cut out of the system.

A Six Nations compromise

‎Six Nations organisers are currently considering shortening the duration of future tournaments by doing away with the two fallow weekends that bookend the competition’s third round.

Although it will certainly negate the disappointment of being reminded by a smug colleague that “there is no Six Nations this weekend”, it might not be the optimal outcome in the eyes of player welfare committees.

A compromise of just one weekend off would be sensible, perhaps after the third round of fixtures to negate any fatigue that could dent match intensities.

Having said that, many players plying their trade outside of the borders of their homelands have been made to play games for their clubs on non-international weekends.

Poor old Greg Laidlaw has spent many a see-sawing February pivoting between the glamour of Test match stadia and Gloucester’s patch of frozen mud.

Irrespective of whether the English, Italians and French are softer under the belly than the hardy Scot, a break does make sense for all parties.

The current arrangement of two free weekends does however sap the tournament of momentum, and results in many rugby folk sorrowfully gazing across the bar reflecting on what might have been of their Saturday afternoon.

City A.M.'s opinion pages are a place for thought-provoking views and debate. These views are not necessarily shared by City A.M.

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