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Tigers predict 'put the pride back' Leicester formula with England

By Chris Jones
Leicester's Joe Heyes, Freddie Steward, Jack van Poortvliet and Ben Youngs on November England duty (Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)

Prop Joe Heyes expects new head coach Steve Borthwick to use the template that took Leicester to the Gallagher Premiership title last season to prepare England for the upcoming first Guinness Six Nations campaign under his command. Heyes and fellow Leicester tighthead Dan Cole are amongst a seven-strong Tigers group in the England squad named last Monday by Borthwick, who has also brought club defence coach Kevin Sinfield with him from the champions.


Now, with just two-and-a-half weeks to the opening Six Nations game with Scotland at Twickenham on February 4, Borthwick has to quickly put his imprint on the squad as he moves away from the influence of Eddie Jones, the coach he replaced.

Heyes, who helped Leicester defeat Clermont 44-29 in the Heineken Champions Cup last Friday to guarantee knockout stage qualification, said: “I imagine it will be similar (with England) to the great work Steve has done here at Leicester. It will revolve around the forwards and making sure we are the best we can be.

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“He came in at the start (in 2020) and put the pride back into the Leicester shirt and how we play. He brought it back down to the fundamentals and we then built on that. Those are set-piece, attack and defence and those were the simple building blocks that Steve did a really good job at building back up.

“Steve called me on Sunday and I had almost forgotten he was England coach because the transition was so quick. He was around here for nearly two-and-a-half years and it went unbelievably quickly. It will be strange the first couple of games going back into England camp with Steve and Kevin Sinfield but I’m sure I will get used to it.


“At the fitness testing, it was really nice to see them both after a few weeks and they are just the same. Kevin is one of the most unique men I have ever met, hard as nails and I have a huge amount of respect for him. He gets his message across in such a calm manner and you really want to defend for him and he is a rugby league legend. He has some really valuable knowledge and our defence was very good last season.

“I still get giddy like a little child thinking about (playing for) England. I want to go there, compete to play and put my hand up.”


Leicester last month won their opening Champions Cup game 23-17 at Ospreys, who are the Welford Road visitors this Friday night, but the Tigers pack was badly mauled in the scrums with Heyes given a yellow card. That made the recent Clermont game even more important with the England squad about to be announced.

The front-rower added: “I knew a lot of people were talking about how big a game it was personally and I just wanted to right a few wrongs, get out there and go as hard as I could. I was up for it. As a tighthead, you pride yourself on the set-piece and the Ospreys was a day I will look to forget.

“It wasn’t a good day in the office and I’m still learning from it. I felt I had to get back on the horse and put in a good performance for the team. I did a scrum review after Ospreys and it was how do I get better? Sometimes the best way to learn is when things go tits up. The whole Ospreys pack is an unbelievable pack and they are almost all Welsh internationals.”


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