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Why Leicester have eyes on 'back five of the scrum' Irish approach

By Liam Heagney
(Photo by Matthew Lewis/Getty Images)

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Steve Borthwick has identified one particular reason why Gallagher Premiership leaders Leicester should be concerned when they put their ten-game unbeaten run at the start of the 2021/22 league and European campaign on the line when they host Irish province Connacht next Sunday at Mattioli Woods Welford Road.  

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Leicester defeated Connacht 48-32 last April in a Challenge Cup round of 16 encounter at home but despite the Tigers’ considerable improvements since then, their coach has outlined why they can’t take anything for granted in a season that began with nine straight league wins followed by last Saturday’s Heineken Champions Cup success away to Bordeaux. 

“I have known Andy Friend for a few years now,” explained Borthwick as his Tigers prepare to welcome Connacht to Leicester for the second time in eight months. “He is a really experienced coach who has seen a lot and what he has built there, they put away Stade Francais pretty well. 

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“You see they have got a tough, hard-working forward pack and what you see with the Irish packs is the back five of the scrum are usually really athletic. They move well, carry well, jackal well. 

“Then you have got a ten, Jack Carty, who manages his team around the pitch beautifully, Bundee Aki, who is back in the centre, has got real power and then they have signed well, (Mack) Hansen has played really well for them in the back three so you have got a team there that fights and also plays smart rugby, so it is going to a formidable challenge.”

One area of Leicester’s own play that Borthwick is looking for an improvement is how they handle the latter stages of the match against Connacht following two close shaves in recent weeks versus Harlequins and Bordeaux. “I look at the endings of the last two games and I don’t think we have handled them particularly well,” he reckoned. 

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“If you look at the game on Saturday the last 20 in general we handled much better than we did against Harlequins the week before but we still gave the opposition an opportunity (to win) as we did the week before. Managing and closing out the game is something we are looking at because ultimately it is not a position Leicester Tigers have been in an awful lot, to be honest. 

“It is something you actually have to manage and experience. Aled Walters has got the team fit, he is an incredible coach and has conditioned the team well. It’s not quite where we want us to be but it is getting us there, so come the later part of games we can compete.”

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