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Richard Wigglesworth on England job, Mike Brown's Leicester debut

By Liam Heagney
(Photo by Nigel French/PA Images via Getty Images)

Interim Leicester boss Richard Wigglesworth has spoken for the first time about being a new addition to the Steve Borthwick coaching ticket with England. He has also explained that this Sunday’s Gallagher Premiership game versus Saracens is perfect for new signing Mike Brown to make his club debut, adding why Julian Montoya is listed as match day skipper even though captain Hanro Liebenberg is starting at No6.

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It was February 7 when the RFU confirmed that Wigglesworth – along with Tigers’ head of physical performance Aled Walters – would exit Welford Road at the end of this season and join England in time for their build-up to the 2023 Rugby World Cup in France.

For Wigglesworth, the accepted offer from England was the latest dramatic twist in a crazy few months for him. As soon as he was asked to become interim Leicester head coach in December when Borthwick was named the new England boss, the assistant coach announced his immediate retirement from playing so that he could fully focus on coaching.

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With the club games then arriving thick and fast over the winter, Wigglesworth went on to outline his ambition to potentially become the permanent boss at Leicester only for that hope to soon expire as he has instead agreed on a deal to work with England under Borthwick.

Asked for his thoughts on this latest job change, Wigglesworth explained: “Well, I am a very proud Englishman for one, so that was a big decision, but then I know all the people involved. But, as of now and for the rest of the season, I am Leicester Tigers’ head coach so that is what I am focused on. I wouldn’t like to talk about that anymore.”

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Wigglesworth was speaking on Friday afternoon after completing preparations for Sunday’s Premiership clash with Saracens, the club they defeated in last June’s 2021/22 final at Twickenham. The round 17 fixture will herald a Leicester debut for ex-England full-back Brown, who last played in the Premiership 12 months ago for Newcastle.

Released by the Falcons, the 37-year-old was in rugby limbo until the sudden departure of Freddie Burns to the Super Rugby Pacific Highlanders created an emergency vacancy that Brown has now filled after successfully completing a trial period.

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“Ultimate professional. He has turned up in great nick. It’s really positive for the group. I am sure we will see Mike at his competitive best on Sunday,” said Wigglesworth about naming Brown in a back three that also features Chris Ashton, the soon-to-be 36-year-old ex-England winger.

“A lot of them know how to win. You only sign experience if it has still got rugby in it. It knows how to win and it still can be a really good influence. If you tick all those boxes then you are useful.

“You can only play into your mid to late 30s if you are a really good professional and you have been lucky. If you have been lucky with injuries, still got rugby in you and you have got that desire, then you can play on and if you are a winner, then you have definitely got something to add.”

Regarding this Sunday’s team captaincy switch, Wigglesworth added: “Some stuff happened at the start of the week in terms of who was available and who wasn’t. Julian was captain at the start of the week. It’s right that this weekend he captains.”

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Leicester’s title defence has been a struggle this season. They currently lie in eighth place heading into this weekend’s Premiership action with just five wins and a draw in 13 matches and have seen England recruit four of their coaches mid-season – Borthwick and defence coach Kevin Sinfield in December, with Wigglesworth and Walters to follow at the end of the campaign.

How does the interim boss feel the squad has coped with all this upheaval? “There is definitely a massive danger of distraction,” he admitted. “That happens in most clubs. Will what has happened at this club ever happen again at another club? Very, very unlikely that another club will go through it.

“I just can’t say how impressed I have been with the players, how they have taken to me, how they have worked, their attitude on and off the field. Are there excuses for them? Are there reasons for them? Yeah. Are they trying to take them? No, no. The lads have done an incredible job pulling themselves away from that narrative… they have been exceptional.

“This challenge (against Saracens) is huge. We know they are pace-setters, we know they are the best team. I know from experience just how good they are, but the lads have prepped well.”

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Shaylen 6 hours ago
Brumbies the best team in Australia but still nothing to show for it

The Brumbies have been the strongest side in Australia for a long time and that was down to their forwards and set piece which has always been good and has always been able to dominate their Australian counterparts. This year the lack of maul tries and also the lack of a stable scrum has been a real problem which was also something Nick alluded to in his article this week about the creaking brumbies tight five. Home advantage is key as you say and the Brumbies must find a way to score more bonus points. If the Brumbies are really serious about winning a title they need to do what Kiwi sides at the top do. They need to smash every Aus side with a bonus point at home while claiming losing bonus points in every game they lose and denying their rivals bonus points. In their 3 losses in NZ this year they were smashed. They only scored 60 tries which is middle of the road, their scrum came in at 73% which was one of the worst in the comp, tackle success at just 83% which was right at the bottom and in terms of metres, clean breaks, carries, offloads and rucks built they were in the middle plus they had the most yellows. They basically were just not dominant enough wile they can improve their discipline. They excelled at kicking and won plenty of lineout ball plus their rucks were secure at 97%. Not sure about turnovers but they weren’t bad there. They just need to be more clinical and give away less and they will give themselves the best chance to win the title.

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