Leicester Tigers legend Austin Healey believes the Gallagher Premier The rugby final is an occasion like no other that continues to go from strength to strength. The race for the top four will finally be decided this weekend in the final round. tigers, saracens and Harlequins are assured of a place in the semi-finals while Northampton Saints come face to face with Gloucester for fourth place ahead of the build-up to the biggest day in English domestic rugby.
Healey spent a decade at Tigers between 1996 and 2006, appearing in three Premiership Rugby finals, winning two and losing one, and has two more titles to his name before the semi-finals and final were introduced.
Since 2013 he has been working with BT Sport on their coverage of Premiership Rugby whilst also working for ESPN since 2010 which means Healey has played a key role in more than ten Premiership finalsso you know how magical the day is.
“It is a great occasion. I remember when Aviva was a sponsor, the whole stadium was yellow, there were flags everywhere and Gallagher took over and they did the exact same thing,” Healey said. “We have things to do as commentators and experts before the game, and one of my favorite things is when you greet the players when they get off the bus or go down the tunnel.
“You walk through the Lion Gates at Twickenham Stadium and you look up and around the place, there are people everywhere, there is a line of supporters waving flags and cheering. It’s a proper event. Most games you show up half an hour or an hour before the game, have a couple of pints and then leave quickly because you want to get home. Not the Premiership final.
“In the Premiership final you arrive two or three hours early, you soak up the atmosphere, you walk around the town, you go to all the sponsor areas and then you see the teams come in and you go find your seats. at Twickenham. We have seen some amazing games in the finals. Thinking of Northampton scoring in the dying seconds, Leicester versus Northampton was another big one. Saracens, obviously Exeter Chiefs winning for the first time.
“It is the culmination of all the hard work and all the effort that the players, coaches and fans put into supporting their team and getting them to where they all want to be.”
However, playing in the Premiership final is still very important to him. He said: “It is very special. He was obviously messing around a bit before he got that big. Over the last, I’d say probably ten years, it’s gotten bigger and bigger.
“Looking back, beating Bathtub in 2001 it was my favorite game. It was probably when I was at the top of my game as a player and involved with a fantastic team, possibly the greatest Tigers team of all time.
“That day was a very hot afternoon, I always remember how hot the finals seemed to be. Then, for the last ten years, I’ve had the most privileged duty, which is to award the Peter Deakin Man of the Match medal.”
Last year’s epic final saw Harlequins take control his second title with a thrilling 40-38 victoryprompting Healey to describe it as his favorite Premiership final, but this year promises to be just as exciting with the return of a packed crowd at Twickenham after two years of reduced attendance due to Covid-19.
With the old side of Healey leicester just back at the peak of his powers and hosting a semi-final at Mattioli Woods Welford Road, it’s a final he’s particularly keen to see. “The favorites to get to the final have to be Leicester and Saracens, the two best teams this year,” the 48-year-old said.
“Quins have had a few little problems along the way, but now they look very, very strong. Arguably, the way the Saints played in the comeback against saracens Last week was very impressive, but Leicester versus Saracens will be the final. As an expert and commentator, you always think you know what’s going to happen.
“Every final that I can remember, something has hit me. He got me on my feet and made me realize how amazing rugby is. It’s not robotic, it’s full of passion, it’s full of inventiveness, and we should see some amazing skills regardless of who’s in the final this year.”
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