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'He is a decorated coach who probably doesn't get the plaudits he deserves'

By PA
Ellis Genge of Leicester Tigers during the Heineken Champions Cup Quarter-Final match between Leicester Tigers and Leinster at Mattoli Woods Welford Road Stadium in Leicester, England. (Photo By Harry Murphy/Sportsfile via Getty Images)

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Leicester captain Ellis Genge has lavished praise on “absolutely incredible” Tigers head coach Steve Borthwick ahead of Saturday’s Gallagher Premiership play-off clash against Northampton.

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Although Leicester’s eight Premiership titles have them at the top of that particular tree, they last contested a league play-off tie five years ago.

Borthwick took over in the summer of 2020, and he has transformed Tigers from finishing 11th in the Premiership just before he arrived to regular-season table-toppers this term.

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They also won all 12 home league games, and held top spot throughout the entire Premiership campaign, which no other club had previously achieved.

“There are lots of different determining factors,” England prop Genge said.

“There are a few unsung heroes, and Steve is absolutely incredible.

“He is a well-decorated coach who probably doesn’t get the plaudits he deserves, but I am so happy that he is finally getting some recognition for being such a good operator. He works tirelessly, so he deserves it.”

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For Genge, the play-off will be his final Leicester appearance at Mattioli Woods Welford Road before he joins Bristol this summer.

Few players have had a bigger impact on Tigers’ season than the 27-year-old, producing blistering form throughout a nine-month domestic competition.

And there is still business to take care of, with Leicester not having landed a Premiership title since they beat Northampton 37-17 at Twickenham nine years ago.

Saracens and Harlequins contest Saturday’s other semi-final as the Premiership hurtles towards what should be a thrilling climax.

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“I’ve been here almost seven years, and I think I am going to finish on 98 starts,” Genge added. “You don’t get a tie until 100 starts, so that’s a bit gutting!

“We went through that sort of low period from 2017 to 2019, when we weren’t performing.

“But I feel we have come out on the other side and the stadium is bouncing again and you can really feel that player-fan bond. It’s a special place.

“In terms of myself, I just want to completely empty the tank for the supporters who have been there throughout.

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“They (Northampton) play an expansive game of rugby, but when teams play us they tend to try and adapt and play a bit more of a kicking game. It will be interesting to see what they bring.”

Hooker Julian Montoya makes his first Leicester appearance for more than a month, packing down alongside Genge and Dan Cole.

And centre Dan Kelly returns after being sidelined since mid-April, partnering Matias Moroni in midfield.

Northampton, winners just twice from nine Premiership play-off appearances, show four changes to their starting line-up.

Courtnall Skosan comes in on the wing, and Tommy Freeman switches to full-back instead of an unavailable George Furbank, while props Emmanuel Iyogun and Ehren Painter also feature, together with number eight Juarno Augustus.

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