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What most impresses Leicester about breakthrough 21-year-old lock

By Liam Heagney
(Photo by Stephen White/CameraSport via Getty Images)

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When it comes to Tigers and conversations about talent emerging from their academy, new England star Freddie Steward has hogged the headlines in 2021. However, he hasn’t been the only young gun to quickly come of age as second-rower Ollie Chessum has played his recent part in helping Leicester to lead the way in this season’s Gallagher Premiership and get their Champions Cup campaign started with a win in France last weekend.  

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The forward has featured in eight of his club’s ten league and European games so far in the 2021/22 campaign, starting in the wins over Saracens, Northampton, Bath and Bordeaux while also adding his heft off the bench in the successes against Exeter, Gloucester, Worcester and Harlequins. 

Having picked up the game at Kesteven, Chessum accelerated his Tigers academy apprenticeship by detouring to Championship club Nottingham and the stripes earned there in the English second tier has provided the 6ft 7in, 118kg forward with the gas to now make an impressive breakthrough under Borthwick back at Leicester. 

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What happened when RugbyPass went behind the scenes at the Leicester Tigers academy
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What happened when RugbyPass went behind the scenes at the Leicester Tigers academy

“Great lad,” said the coach when asked about the impact of the youngster who has become a regular selection in recent months following fleeing previous involvement. “He has got a younger brother (Lewis, another lock) also coming through the system who has a lot of potential also. 

“But a fantastic character who has worked really hard at his game. It hasn’t been a straight path for him. He has gone a different way. Played at Nottingham the year before last and shone there as a young man and then he has come in and worked hard to improve himself physically. His attitude to work has always been excellent but his desire and focus to improve have been really impressive and you saw that on the pitch.

“I don’t think there is one label you can fit everybody with. You look at each individual on a case by case basis, where are their strengths, where are their areas to improve, how do you need to coach them to get more out of them and that can be different on a daily basis as well. But asking me about Olly Chessum specifically, he has shown a huge amount of perseverance. You talk about grasping opportunities, he is one that every time you give him an opportunity he jumps at it,” added Borthwick, whose unbeaten Leicester side this weekend takes on Connacht in round two of Europe.

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