New Leicester Tigers head coach Steve Borthwick took the embattled club into their first game of the Premiership restart, a daunting away trip against the league leaders Exeter Chiefs
Borthwick has taken over a Leicester squad that has seen 26 players depart, including the England pair of Jonny May and Manu Tuilagi, while a pay row attracted plenty of negative headlines.
The club has been on a downward spiral in recent years running through coaches Aaron Mauger, Matt O’Connor and Geordan Murphy over the last few seasons and narrowly escaped Premiership relegation last season. In a re-shuffle, Murphy has been elevated into the Director of Rugby role with Borthwick filling his old head coaching role.
The former England captain has been assisting Eddie Jones with the national side coaching during that time, seeing the side reach the World Cup final last year. On his arrival at Welford Road, the coach took his players to the stands of the famous ground to give an inspired speech about turning around the club’s fortunes by re-finding the ‘DNA’ of old.
Yesterday’s clash against Exeter was the first test of Borthwick’s side mettle and whether they would respond to Borthwick’s challenge, and many Leicester fans were happy with the toughness their side showed, claimng the ‘old gnarliness’ is back under Borthwick’s influence.
If this is Steve Borthwick’s Tigers I really like it! Ben Young’s making tackles and tapping. Turnovers left right and centre. And a drop goal no less!!! ???
— James King (@jkfig) August 15, 2020
Leicester seemed to have a bit of the old gnarliness back in them, no doubt Borthwick’s influence. Started physically and aggressively, but without ever firing too many shots. Discipline let them down and didn’t allow them to regain a foothold #EXEvLEI
— The Travelling Reserve (@TravelReserve) August 15, 2020
Plenty of positives for Leicester Tigers in that match. Steve Borthwick has changed that side and I thought they played well bar five minutes before and after half time. Don't think they rolled over. Exeter Chiefs picked up where they left off. Look good for the title. #EXEvLEI
— Ross Barnett (@rbarnett08) August 15, 2020
Exeter pick up where they left off with BP win. However, Leicester already look a tougher team to play against under Borthwick. Expect them to push for the top six. Chiefs still favourites for the title #EXEvLEI
— Matt Cassidy (@Cass_maitias) August 15, 2020
Can see what Borthwick is trying to do with Tigers. They were definitely more solid than they were pre lockdown and with all their new players it’ll take time to gel. Can’t afford to take 15 minutes off against Exeter though and they were punished. #EXEvLEI
— Rob Sutton (@RobSutton97) August 15, 2020
Can see the impact of Borthwick already. Tigers look much more organised and their line speed has been great so far.
Ford is playing well and slotted a nice drop goal. Never understand why teams don’t go for points more often. It’s all about building a lead! #EXEvLEI
— Mana Rugby (@mana_rugby) August 15, 2020
— Rhys Knott (@buck_mitchell) August 15, 2020
@SammDoubleu @Tigersultras huge improvement from where we were, I super excited about the future, the inclusion of Steve Borthwick and the other new coaches is definitely pushing us in the right direction, the club is moving forward with a new DNA
— Tom (@BigLadTom) August 15, 2020
The response online was overwhelming positive by the club’s supporters, who have had little to cheer about with lifeless performances leading to more questions and off field turmoil embroiling the upper levels of management. The last time they had visited Sandy Park, Exeter had piled 52 points on them.
One fan claimed they will be pushing for ‘top six’ from their current position of 11th, only behind Saracens.
Borthwick was overall pleased with the effort of his players, calling their attitude ‘outstanding’ but stopped short of hyperbole by adding some realism by saying ‘the team isn’t in the position it is in for no reason’/
“We made mistakes and there are things to learn, but the effort and the attitude of the players was outstanding.
“We’ve got a lot of work to do because the team isn’t in the position it is in the league for no reason.”
Sign up to our mailing list for a weekly digest from the wide world of rugby.Sign Up Now