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Borthwick quizzed on England role as red card costs Leicester

By PA
Steve Borthwick /PA

Leicester boss Steve Borthwick admitted that Francois van Wyk’s second-half red card was “a big factor” behind his team losing a healthy lead and being held 26-26 by Bristol at Ashton Gate.

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Tigers were clear on the scoreboard when Van Wyk was dismissed for a high challenge on Bristol and England prop Ellis Genge.

But Bristol made their one-man advantage count through late tries for hooker Bryan Byrne and wing Gabriel Ibitoye, both converted by AJ MacGinty, to halt a run of six successive Gallagher Premiership defeats.

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MacGinty even had a chance to win it with the game’s final kick, but he sent a 40-metre penalty narrowly wide.

“The first 10 minutes we made a couple of mistakes, which gave them field position and gave them their first score,” Leicester head coach Borthwick said.

“I thought the players did really well after that point in time and, ultimately, with 15 minutes to go, we were 26-12 up, so you wouldn’t expect that to finish 26-all.

“The sending-off was a big factor within that, but it wasn’t the only factor. There were a couple of turnovers that gave them field positions.

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“You can’t give a team of that standard as many opportunities as we did. We want 15 men on the pitch.

“Our discipline was excellent in the first half, when we didn’t concede a penalty. You could see how hard we work on our discipline, but down to 14 men you have to play a very smart game.”

Borthwick, meanwhile, is the subject of growing speculation linking him to the role of England head coach.

A decision is expected next week on whether or not current England boss Eddie Jones will keep his job following a poor Autumn Nations Series campaign that is currently the subject of a detailed review.

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And former England forwards specialist Borthwick, who masterminded Leicester’s Premiership title triumph last season, is among those being linked to the post as a possible Jones successor if the Rugby Football Union decide he should go.

Borthwick added: “You know that the club coaches are always in contact with the RFU and talking about a big contingent of England players.

“I am always talking around my England players, and that is my focus here.”

First-half tries by centre Dan Kelly, wing Chris Ashton and hooker Julian Montoya put Leicester in the driving seat, while fly-half Freddie Burns added a conversion and three penalties.

Bristol, without a Premiership win since they toppled London Irish on September 24, led 12-6 midway through the second quarter.

Centre Semi Radradra marked his comeback from injury with an early try, then full-back Charles Piutau added a slick second score, converted by Callum Sheedy.

But a 29th-minute yellow card for Radradra proved costly, with Leicester posting two tries while he was out of action, until the late Bristol tries, both converted by MacGinty.

Bristol rugby director Pat Lam said: “We started off really well, and then we got on the wrong end of the penalty count and it meant we were double-banking on our work.

“We had a yellow card, it was penalty after penalty and we conceded three tries. We were down 11 points, but the boys’ character…they kept going and going.

“There is disappointment but we are on the right track. The boys are working extremely hard.

“We will keep working and keep pushing. There is a long way to go in this competition.”

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