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A Sale memory is helping key Leicester figure to avoid complacency

By PA
(Photo by Lionel Hahn/Getty Images)

Richard Wigglesworth has dismissed any notion of complacency as Leicester close in on the Heineken Champions Cup quarter-finals. Tigers have not reached the last eight since 2016, but a stunning round-of-16 first-leg victory over French heavyweights Clermont Auvergne last weekend has left them in pole position. Leicester will take a 19-point lead with them into the second leg at Mattioli Woods Welford Road on Saturday, increasing prospects of a mouthwatering quarter-final clash against four-time European champions Leinster next month.

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Leicester assistant coach and scrum-half Wigglesworth, though, knows from personal experience just how quickly things can change in Europe. He was part of the Sale team that thumped Clermont 32-15 away from home 14 years ago – his teammates included the likes of Sebastien Chabal, Mark Cueto and Luke McAlister – but it unravelled a week later. “It was a brilliant win in 2008 and it was a really good win at the weekend,” he said.

“They are two really nice memories when I finish my career that I will have. But I would add that it will probably only be a nice memory if we actually go out there this weekend and give a good account of ourselves. What happened the week after in 2008 was that we played Munster at home and thought we were better than we were and did nothing (Sale lost 24-16). We haven’t done anything yet.

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“It was a really good day for us on Sunday, but I don’t want to be like Sale in 2008. What Steve (Borthwick, Leicester head coach) has done is create an environment where that (complacency) would not be something that anyone would dare breathe, hopefully even think. We have got to attack this weekend because we are playing a brilliant, big French team that can score three tries in three minutes.

“We are pretty conscious of how hard it was to win on Sunday – the amount of try-saving tackles, the amount of defending on your own line. That’s what a team that wants to go somewhere and actually do something will recognise.”

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Borthwick has transformed Leicester since taking the reins in 2020, arriving at a club that only avoided Gallagher Premiership relegation earlier that year because Saracens were demoted as punishment for salary cap breaches. Less than two years into his rebuilding, the Tigers are on course for a possible European and domestic title double, leading the Premiership by eight points and having already booked a play-off place.

“We are so week to week and it has become ingrained in us. That’s the boss,” Wigglesworth added of the Borthwick approach at Leicester. “He is as on-task as anyone I have ever met. It might be the smallest detail, it might be something big, there is a non-stop need for the next minute, hour, day, week, to be really good.

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“He is doing what he should be doing, which is leading. That’s where he excels – leading people, leading a programme – and he makes massively informed decisions. He is just really skilled but still authentic. There isn’t a thing that he won’t have thought about or tried to improve.”

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