Healey: Premiership Rugby Final an occasion like no other

·4-min read
Healey won four Premiership titles with Leicester Tigers prior to the final being introduced before tasting defeat in two showpieces.
Healey won four Premiership titles with Leicester Tigers prior to the final being introduced before tasting defeat in two showpieces.

Leicester Tigers legend Austin Healey believes the Gallagher Premiership Rugby Final is an occasion like no other that continues to go from strength to strength.

The race for the top four will be finally decided this weekend, in the final round of Gallagher Premiership Rugby.

Tigers, Saracens and Harlequins are assured of a place in the semi-finals while Northampton Saints go head-to-head with Gloucester Rugby for fourth spot ahead of the build-up for the biggest day in English domestic rugby.

Healey spent a decade at the Tigers between 1996 and 2006, featuring in three Premiership Rugby Finals, winning two and losing one, and has two further titles to his name from before the semi-finals and final were introduced.

Since 2013 he has been working with BT Sport on their coverage of Premiership Rugby while also working for ESPN from 2010, meaning Healey has played a key role in over 10 Premiership Rugby Finals, so he knows just how magical the day is.

“It's a huge occasion. I remember when Aviva were sponsors, the whole stadium was yellow, there were flags everywhere and Gallagher have taken over and they've done exactly the same,” said Healey.

“We have bits to do as commentators and pundits before the game, and one of my favourite bits is where you welcome the players as they walk in either off the bus or down through the tunnel.

“You go through the Lion Gates at Twickenham Stadium and you look up and the whole place, there are people everywhere, there's a line of supporters waving flags and cheering.

“It's a proper event, most games you turn 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."

"At the Premiership Final you get there two or three hours before, you soak up the atmosphere, you go around the village, you go to all the sponsors areas, and then you see the teams walk in and you go and find your seats at Twickenham.

“We've seen some unbelievable games in the finals. Thinking back to Northampton Saints scoring in the last seconds, Leicester v Northampton was another big one. Saracens, obviously Exeter Chiefs winning for the first time.

However, playing in the Premiership Final is still something that remains very important to him.

He said: “It's very special. I was obviously playing a little bit before it became so big. I think over the last, I'd say probably ten years, it's got bigger and bigger and bigger.

“Looking back, I think beating Bath Rugby in 2001 was my favourite game. It was probably when I was at the peak of my playing performance and I was involved in a fantastic team, arguably the best Tigers team ever.

“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 actually had the most privileged duty, which is to award the Peter Deakin medal for the Player of the Match.”

And with Healey’s old side Leicester Tigers right back at the peak of their powers and hosting a semi-final at Mattioli Woods Welford Road, it is a final that he is particularly eager to see.

“I think the favourites to get to the final have got to be Leicester and Saracens, the two best sides this year," said the 48-year-old.

“Quins have had a few little blips along the way, but they look very, very strong now. Saints, arguably the way they played in the comeback against Saracens last week was very impressive, but I think Leicester versus Saracens will be the final.

“As a pundit and a commentator, you always think that you know what's going to happen.

“Every final I can remember, something has shocked me. It's got me to my feet and made me realise just how amazing rugby is. It's not robotic, it's full of passion, it's full of inventiveness, and we should see some amazing pieces of skill regardless of who's in the final this year.”

Don’t miss the Gallagher Premiership Rugby Final 2022 at Twickenham Stadium on 18 June. World-class action. Unmissable entertainment. Click here for tickets.

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