Aled Walters says the challenge of helping Leicester Tigers return to the top of the English game was too good an opportunity to turn down. Leicester’s new Head of Physical Performance joined the club after helping South Africa win the 2019 Rugby World Cup, and has outlined his ambitions for Leicester in his first interview since making the move to England.

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Walters is highly regarded for his work with the Springboks, where he held a key role in Rassie Erasmus’ backroom staff, following previous roles at Scarlets, Taranaki in New Zealand, Australia’s Brumbies and Munster.

He joins the Tigers at a time of major change. New head coach Steve Borthwick recently stepped into the role vacated by Geordan Murphy, who has become Director of Rugby, while financial issues raised by the coronavirus pandemic saw a number of players, including the talismanic Manu Tuilagi, move on for pastures new.

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The Tigers have begun to plug the holes those departures left in their squad with five new signings – namely Kini Murimurivalu, Kobus Van Wyk, Guy Porter, Luke Wallace and Matias Moroni – announced on Monday.

Headline signing Nemani Nadolo has also recently linked up with the squad following his signing from Montpellier earlier this year.

And as he helps Borthwick whip a new-look Leicester squad into shape, Walters said he is determined to help the Tigers return to the top of the English game following a number of underwhelming campaigns.

Having finished fourth and fifth in the 2016/17 and 2017/18 Premiership seasons respectively, the Tigers slumped to 11th last season, and occupied the same position when the current campaign was suspended due to the coronavirus pandemic.

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In his first interview since joining Leicester, Walters told the club’s website that he believes the club “belongs at the top.”

“Effort, work-rate, and real honesty (are the three things I look for in players). And I hope that I can reciprocate that, but yeah, they’re the three things. Without that, we’re going to be lacking,” he said.

“I would like to see the supporters at Welford Road and at away games respect that the players are going to go as hard as possible.

“They’re going to have this unrelenting work-rate. There’s going to be an honesty to every performance.

“And while we might not get success immediately, (I hope) that everyone has got this drive to get the Tigers back to where I think they belong.

“I think we belong at the top. So it’s (about producing) that real, unrelenting desire to improve.”

Walters added that the opportunity to work with Borthwick was the major factor in his decision to step away from the Springboks set-up.

“Why leave a World Cup winning team to go to Leicester? He’s (Borthwick) a massive reason in that. His reputation, the detail, and the teams that he’s prepared. The teams that he has played for, but (also) the teams that he has prepared. I’m thinking about the effect he had with Japan. Then the effect that he’s had with England over the last few years.

“When I join a team I want to know that there’s a genuine opportunity to improve, to perform, and to be successful. That was a massive, massive decision swinger.”

The Welshman added that the Tigers coaching team are currently in the process of evaluating their squad ahead of the resumption of the Premiership season.

“It’s pretty individualised. We’ve had to evaluate where they’re at, and again that’s a new challenge.

“It’s a long time since guys have played, so players are coming in and you have no idea what they are going to be like until they actually rock up on your doorstep, and then you go, ‘Oh we’re going to have to adapt your plan.’

“So flexibility in what we do and how we approach things is probably one of the key requirements at the moment.

“Taking the likes of Nemani and going, ‘Ok, where are you, where do we need to get you?’ And then having the best scenario to say, ‘Ok, we think you’ll be able to be reintroduced on this date’, or, ‘This will be a target game for him to be ready.’”

Leicester are due to restart their Premiership campaign with an away fixture against Exeter Chiefs on August 15.

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