Leicester 'delighted' to have Freddie Steward available as Tigers target top four

Freddie Steward is in contention to play for Leicester against Bristol Bears on Saturday lunchtime
©David Howlett

On Wednesday, 'rugby twitter' was awash with reaction after Freddie Steward had his red card rescinded.

The Leicester Tigers full-back has escaped a ban after the review panel decided his sending-off against Ireland in last Saturday's Six Nations clash should have been just a yellow.

The decision caused plenty of debate all over the rugby world, with plenty of criticism, but the outcome means Steward is free to play immediately.

Current Leicester head coach Richard Wigglesworth said this week the 22-year-old ‘has trained and has been fully around,’ so will be considered for selection for the Tigers' Gallagher Premiership fixture against Bristol Bears on Saturday lunchtime.

On the red card incident, Wigglesworth said: "We play an invasion sport that is played by incredible athletes at high pace, so little things like this are going to happen.

"We are really, really a safe game at the minute. We really look after players and that is exactly where we want to be, but that one I felt, and it's obviously been proved, that certain accidents and things happen on a rugby field and it's just one of those things.

“I was pretty confident he would get off, as confident as you can be with these processes, but I think we all saw that it was a rugby incident. I have not read the report yet as to how it got downgraded, but there wasn’t much in it for me.”

With Steward away with England, Leicester made the surprising decision to sign Mike Brown on a short-term deal in late January. The 37-year-old has played superbly in his four matches for his new side, causing fans and pundits alike to wonder whether there will be an extension to the ‘short-term’ contract he signed.

“We're in discussions now, so hopefully,” Wigglesworth said on Thursday afternoon. “I'm not sure if anything's done but I think we'll get there soon enough.”

Given it is the first time that Wigglesworth has coached during a Six Nations period, he now has the unenviable task of integrating the returning stars from the tournament with the players who were left behind who have won four consecutive games.

“It's been really tough. I'd decided before they came back in, what it (selection and rest periods) was going to look like, so we'll find out on Friday which way that's fallen," Wigglesworth added.

"It's great to have their added quality back in and their experience, and they've all been great this week. The lads had obviously had a week off, and they (the Six Nations returners) had been away, so it took us a day to get into it and then they raised the quality.”

Wigglesworth also heaped praise on weekend opponents Bristol, saying 'they’re the team of two years ago'.

The Bears have won their last four matches, scoring 158 points in the process, and there may also be a return to Mattioli Woods Welford Road for Gallagher Premiership-winning captain Ellis Genge 

“It’s a challenge (stopping Bristol), because there’s one thing coming up with a plan to stop different shapes and stop patterns and stuff, but it’s individuals that you’ve got to try and stop in this team, and that’s not easy," Wigglesworth said.

"We’ll do that by making sure as a team we’re as strong as possible, but we’ve got to take down those individuals.

“It goes from a Semi Radradra to a Charles Piutau, and then to an Ellis Genge who'll be coming back. It's just individual after individual after individual that can hurt you, so very impressive.”

The match on Saturday pits two form teams against each other. Leicester have only three games remaining this season, whilst Bristol have four. If the team from the South-West win this weekend, they could move to within three points of Leicester with a game in hand in the race for the playoffs.

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