April 19, 2012
Alesana and Manu Tuilagi are part of the Premiership's arguably most famous family © Getty Images
One of the Aviva Premiership's worst kept secrets was finally confirmed this week - Delon Armitage's switch from London Irish to Toulon. As a result he will link up with his brother Steffon, already a shining light for the Top 14 side having made the switch from the Exiles last summer, and another sibling in the form of younger brother Guy who put pen to paper on a deal to join Mourad Boudjellal's foreign legion earlier this year. The mass Armitage exodus to France also means that the Premiership will be void of one of its favourite rugby playing families next term.
But don't despair - English rugby's top flight is still laden with rugby playing brothers. This week's Scrum Sevens offers some brotherly love or perhaps sibling rivalry.
Michael and Errie Claassens: The South African born brothers came to the Premiership through contrasting routes. While Michael joined Bath after turning out in Super Rugby for the Cheetahs and gaining international recognition for the Springboks, Errie came through the Championship channel. Turning out for Rotherham and then London Welsh, Errie developed a reputation as one of the league's most potent finishers and Worcester Warriors' Richard Hill snapped him up to bolster their back three options ahead of their promotion to the Premiership last season.
Errie has made just 12 appearances in the Premiership this season and is yet to cross the try line. In contrast, since making his switch from the Cheetahs in 2007, Michael has become an integral part of the Bath side, skippered them in the 2009-10 season and claimed the Rugby Players' Association's Try of the Year honour in 2011.
Brett and Louis Deacon: The pair both came through the Leicester Tigers' academy - after playing for Wigston RFC and Syston - and while Louis still turns out for the Welford Road outfit, Brett is currently plying his trade for Premiership rivals Gloucester. Louis has experienced huge success on the international turf with 29 caps to his name and a reputation as a solid lineout operator while Brett is more versed in the dark arts of the back-row.
Lee and Karl Dickson: The scrum-half playing brothers were both in the England mix for the 2012 Six Nations. With Danny Care suspended and Ben Youngs woefully out of form, it was Lee who played much of the campaign at half-back. When he sustained a broken bone in his wrist, Stuart Lancaster opted to call on brother Karl to cover his younger sibling prior to the second round clash with Italy. But Lee recovered in time and kept the scrum-half shirt for the rest of England's campaign. While they were vying for the same spot in recent times, the two are not strangers to competing against each other. Lee currently turns out for the Northampton Saints while Karl is competing with Care for the No.9 shirt at Harlequins.
Michael and Sailosi Tagicakibau: The Samoan flyers are veritable Premiership veterans with a combined total of 117 appearances in England's top league to their name. While Michael is currently lining up for champions Saracens, rumours are abound that he may link up with Sailosi at London Irish next season.
Alex and Mathew Tait: The brothers are both products of the Newcastle Falcons academy and while Mathew has since jumped ship, Alex remains at the Premiership's basement side. Mathew is currently at the Leicester Tigers, after a spell with Sale, but injury has kept him on the sidelines of late. Mathew looked set to become an integral part of the England side after impressing during the 2007 World Cup, but a variety of injuries have since harmed his prospects. Younger brother Alex shows similar traits to his older brother with a turn of pace and good sidestep but he is yet to make the step up to international rugby.
Manu and Alesana Tuilagi: The Tuilagis are probably rugby's most famous set of brothers in the game at the moment. While Manu and Alesana are terrorising defences in the Premiership with the Leicester Tigers, there are in fact another four in the family who have plied their trade around the world.
Oldest brother Freddie now acts as agent to the Tuilagi clan but he turned out for Leicester, the Cardiff Blues and Castres. Elsewhere Andy is currently playing for the Dragons, Sanele has played for Samoa and Henry can be found at Perpignan. While Alesana and Manu are currently at the Tigers, Alesana has been linked with a move to Japan so there's a chance that there might be just one Tuilagi running out for the Tigers next year.
Ben and Tom Youngs: The duo continue to turn out for the Leicester Tigers after both graduating from their academy. The pair played for North Walsham RFC in their younger days and while Ben has already made his mark on the international scene - with 22 caps to his name, there's every chance that Tom may join him in the future. Tom has converted from the centres to hooker and with England's resources in that department not as flush as elsewhere on the field, they may replicate legendary Leicester playing brothers the Underwoods and both play for the national side in the same XV.
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
Tom Hamilton is the Assistant Editor of ESPNscrum.