As the Six Nations takes a break this weekend, it has been business as usual for club sides around Europe. In the English Premiership, Leicester Tigers have taken the distraction of the test series to secure the futures of two of their top forwards, Brendan O’Connor and Mike Fitzgerald.
Joining the Tigers in 2015, Fitzgerald has proven to be a versatile member of the squad, featuring at both flanker and lock in his 44 appearances. The 29-year-old New Zealander made an instant impact with the English club, being named the Players’ Player of the Year.
Reported by Planet Rugby, Fitzgerald admits that committing to the club was an easy decision:
“I’ve enjoyed my time at the club so far and settled well here with my family. It was an easy decision to make to stay with the club.
“We’ve got a good group of boys and a very competitive set of forwards which helps everyone to improve.
“It’s been a great experience playing in the Aviva Premiership and in Europe for Leicester, and I always want to get better as a player. I’ve had a couple of seasons of experience here now and hope to keep improving and also use that experience to develop more as a leader within that group if I can.”
In more good news for head coach Aaron Mauger, Planet Rugby also report that flanker Brendan O’Connor has extended his stay at Welford Road. The 27-year-old Kiwi has made 29 appearances since his arrival in 2015 and, like his compatriot Fitzgerald, was keen to stay on.
“My debut against Stade in the European Cup was a real highlight of my first season at Leicester and it really showed me what rugby here is all about. With the crowd and the atmosphere at Welford Road, it was great.
“I was keen to stay, we’ve got a good group of guys in the squad and I’m excited by what this group can do.”
With confirmation that Bath’s George Ford is set to return to Welford Road at the end of the season, Mauger appears to be building a stable and exciting squad of players that will look to challenge for top honours in the Premiership.
Should Manu Tuilagi recover from his knee injury without any lingering effects, who is to doubt that they won’t be right up there come the business end of next season.
Gary Brennan, Pundit Arena
This week’s edition of The Oval Office, we speak with Niall Ronan, David Arnott and talk all things Six Nations.