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The Welford Road signing that has reminded Tom Youngs of Leicester in their pomp

By Liam Heagney
(Photo by Malcolm Couzens/Getty Images)

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Struggling Leicester looked to be stuck in a perpetual crisis, the recent shutdown of their training ground to stop virus spread being following by the axing director of rugby Geordan Murphy, but skipper Tom Youngs has insisted it hasn’t been all doom and gloom.


Tigers begin the 2020/21 Gallagher Premiership at home to Gloucester on Saturday have had their training curtailed amid an off-field reshuffle that also saw two assistant coaches depart following a difficult end to the restarted 2019/20 Premiership.

Leicester won just two of their nine league matches when last season restarted but Youngs believes there are reasons for optimism that the new campaign will bring an improvement. One reason for his confidence this month’s recruitment of Richard Wigglesworth, the veteran 37-year-old Saracens scrum-half capped 33 times by England.    

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Eddie Jones sets the scene ahead of Saturday’s England versus Ireland clash
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Eddie Jones sets the scene ahead of Saturday’s England versus Ireland clash

“Great signing,” enthused Youngs. “Reminds me of Leicester of old, that sort of little cute signing that they have done, and it will be very helpful. Ben White and Jack van Poortvliet will learn a heap off him. 

“He just brings that steadiness into the ship, knows how to play the game, plays extremely well, tactically very nous, very up there, one of best tactical scrum-halves about. Yeah, he will help massively with Ben (Youngs) and other players being away.”

But for the automatic relegation of Saracens, Wigglesworth’s old club, eleventh-placed Leicester would have finished bottom of the pile last season as their tally of six wins and a draw was a worse outcome than the seven wins they managed in 2018/19 for another eleventh-place finish. 


However, despite fears outside the club that they are prime candidates to now fall into the Championship following the latest upheaval at the club, Youngs believes they are better equipped than before to cope with the changes as new boss Steve Borthwick was in place since July 1, 19 weeks before ties were cut with Murphy. 

“Previously it’s been the head man’s gone and there was no replacement behind that. One thing we have got now is we have Steve there who has been here for a fairly long time. Geordie has stepped aside but Steve has always been in control of the rugby stuff from last season so that doesn’t change. 

“Obviously we have got some coaches who have gone, Boris (Stankovich) and Rob (Taylor) have moved on, but we have also then got Tom (Harrison) and Matt Smith who have been with us a lot as the academy hasn’t really been doing much. They are ready to step up. 

“Now I’m sure the club and Steve are having a look what is out there but they are not in a rush which is key. Previously the club has maybe rushed into decisions. It’s a lot clearer now. We have got the head man Steve there now who knows exactly what he wants, a plan of how to attack that, and then it will be just putting those other bibs and bobs in.”


Despite this supposed continuity with Borthwick, Youngs refused to publicly state a target for when Leicester are aiming to finish the 2020/21 season. “I don’t want to but a stance on that, make a comment on that. I know what we want to do in here and I probably want to keep that to ourselves if I’m honest. We are just excited about starting this weekend with Gloucester.”


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