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Norfolk roots are growing ever stronger at the academy of Aviva Premiership giants Leicester Tigers

Leicester Tigers academy media day - Norfolk players, from left, Luke Phoenix, Thom Smith, Freddie Steward, Max Otis, Ollie Ashworth and Andre Dunn. Picture: Leicester Tigers

Leicester Tigers academy media day - Norfolk players, from left, Luke Phoenix, Thom Smith, Freddie Steward, Max Otis, Ollie Ashworth and Andre Dunn. Picture: Leicester Tigers

Leicester Tigers

With pre-season getting up to speed for rugby teams, David Freezer travelled to Leicestershire to meet the latest batch of Norfolk youngsters chasing the dream of becoming a Premiership player

Leicester Tigers academy media day - Andre Dunn (far right) and Luke Phoenix (third from right). Picture: Leicester Tigers Leicester Tigers academy media day - Andre Dunn (far right) and Luke Phoenix (third from right). Picture: Leicester Tigers

Following in the footsteps of Ben and Tom Youngs is the aim for the latest batch of talented Norfolk youngsters hoping to make the grade at Leicester Tigers.

The England internationals are the headline names among a string of players from Norfolk who have emerged as Premiership players, many with Leicester, including Tigers flanker Will Evans and centre George Catchpole, Northampton Saints hooker Charlie Clare and Newcastle Falcons lock Calum Green.

We caught up with the latest prospects rolling off the production line during pre-season in Leicestershire earlier this week, ahead of a friendly against Irish giants Leinster on Monday.

Ollie Ashworth

Position: Back row forward

Age: 16

From: Norwich

The Langley School pupil turned up in a David Beckham football shirt when he first started as an under-six player at Wymondham – but has come a long way since.

“It means a lot to me,” Ashworth said of his place in the Tigers academy. “From having injuries and setbacks and things like that, it kind of got to me really but it was about seeing how I react from it and being here now is just amazing.”

It is not just the Youngs brothers he looks up to though, adding: “People like Harry Mahoney who has got into the first team. He’s from Langley as well so we know Harry quite well, so understanding how he got there also helps.”

Andre Dunn

Position: Centre

Age: 17

From: King’s Lynn

Originally from New Zealand, moving over from Auckland at five years old, the former West Norfolk RFC junior’s dad used to play rugby league for Whitehaven in Cumbria.

“I would say my strengths are probably my physical strength on the pitch and getting everything organised on the pitch, saying where the forwards go,” Dunn said. “And then my weaknesses would probably be my pace, my speed! So I’m working on that and my kicking as well.”

He has another reason to try and impress with Leicester as well, adding: “It’s definitely a huge honour to represent the badge because my brother (Pasqualle) used to play for Leicester Tigers so it’s following in his footsteps.”

Max Otis

Position: Wing

Age: 17

From: King’s Lynn

Another former West Norfolk junior, who played alongside Dunn at Langley School, Otis knows what he wants to focus on during his second year with the Tigers academy.

“Working from the back three as a winger and sometimes full-back, pace and footwork are the main parts of my game and I think that’s where my strengths are at,” he said. “Things I need to work on, I think high ball catching is something I really need to work on, and power, I’m not big enough so I need to put some size on, just in the gym and eating a lot more.”

Luke Phoenix

Position: Winger

Age: 16

From: Fakenham

The former Holt junior would love to follow in the footsteps of the Youngs brother and also benefits from the guidance of his father, Soul, who has represented England at touch rugby and also played for Holt.

Leicester Tigers academy media day - Thom Smith. Picture: Leicester Tigers Leicester Tigers academy media day - Thom Smith. Picture: Leicester Tigers

“Just seeing them on the TV is just amazing,” Phoenix said.

“Fortunately they are also family friends so we know each other which is good because they are even more like role models and we really look up to them – and basically want to follow in their footsteps and play at as higher level as they do.”

Thom Smith

Position: Back row forward

Leicester Tigers academy media day - Ollie Ashworth. Picture: Leicester Tigers Leicester Tigers academy media day - Ollie Ashworth. Picture: Leicester Tigers

Age: 17

From: Thetford

Originally from Thetford but based at Langley School as his family have moved to Naples in Italy, the former Bury St Edmunds junior is looking to make the most of his chance with Tigers.

“I’m back row so my strengths are probably at the lineout, that’s where I’m most confident, and fitness as well, getting around the park. And to work on is probably to be more physical, around rucks and clearing people out, stuff like that.

Leicester Tigers academy media day - Andre Dunn. Picture: Leicester Tigers Leicester Tigers academy media day - Andre Dunn. Picture: Leicester Tigers

Freddie Steward

Position: Full-back

Age: 16

From: Longham, near Dereham

Leicester Tigers academy media day - Max Otis. Picture: Leicester Tigers Leicester Tigers academy media day - Max Otis. Picture: Leicester Tigers

Another former Holt junior, the Norwich School sixth-form student is another dreaming of making it all the way to the top.

“Ben and Tom Youngs have always been right up there as role models,” Steward said.

“It would be awesome to follow in their footsteps, that would be the dream.”

Leicester Tigers academy media day - Luke Phoenix. Picture: Leicester Tigers Leicester Tigers academy media day - Luke Phoenix. Picture: Leicester Tigers

Leicester Tigers academy media day - Thom Smith. Picture: Leicester Tigers Leicester Tigers academy media day - Thom Smith. Picture: Leicester Tigers

Leicester Tigers academy media day - Freddie Steward. Picture: Leicester Tigers Leicester Tigers academy media day - Freddie Steward. Picture: Leicester Tigers

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