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'You would've thought there was no chance... But that's what we've done'

By PA
Steve Borthwick /PA

Steve Borthwick hailed his Leicester Tigers side for defying expectations after they completed the job against Clermont Auvergne with a 27-17 win to reach the Heineken Champions Cup quarter-finals.

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Leading 29-10 from the first leg, tries from Hanro Liebenberg, Matt Scott and Freddie Steward – as well as a penalty try – ensured the hosts were never in danger at Mattioli Woods Welford Road.

Clermont also crossed twice in the second half through Alivereti Raka and Fritz Lee, but they were nothing more than consolation scores despite Tigers having Ollie Chessum sent off.

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And after watching his side cruise into the last eight with a 56-27 aggregate win, Borthwick admitted no one would have predicted such a result at the start of the season.

“It’s a great result, isn’t it? Who would’ve thought we’d beat Clermont,” he said.

“We had two games and we won two games. If you look back at the start of the season, who would’ve thought Leicester Tigers would be European Champions Cup quarter-finalists.

“You would’ve thought there was no chance of that. But that’s what we’ve done. The players deserve enormous credit for what they’ve done.

“I thought at half-time there were some things we needed to do better in the second half. I thought the players did that very well.”

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On man-of-the-match Harry Potter, Borthwick added: “He’s done a good job for us. He’s played on the left wing for us before and there was plenty of players who really fought out there exceptionally hard.

“I thought the impact of the players coming on to the pitch was also very good.”

Tigers are through to the Champions Cup quarter-finals for the first time since 2016 and Clermont head coach Jono Gibbes felt his side were always fighting a losing battle after the first leg.

He said: “The total aggregate, obviously there’s a difference between them and us.

“I thought through the two games we had opportunities and maybe the differential could’ve been a little bit different if we’d taken our opportunities last week.

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“But, ultimately, we need to start working on bridging the gap between where we are and where we want to get to. Today was a great experience for us.

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“I think they’re just a little bit more efficient in how they do things. Even in the way they exit, they can shift the point, one pass, chase lines already in place.

“It was important for us to have a response. They scored five tries, three off set-piece, two off high-balls, at our home ground last week.

“No matter which stage of the evolution teams are in, for us that’s pretty hard to ship 29 points at home. So there was a response demanded and I thought the guys turned up.”

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Shaylen 2 hours ago
Jack Willis' Champions Cup masterclass proves English eligibility rules need a rethink

If France, Wales, England, Scotland and Ireland got together and all changed their eligibility laws in the same way SA has it would be absolutely bonkers. All players from all nations involved in Europe would be fair game as would their coaches. The investment in rugby would be supercharged as teams would rush to create dream teams. Transfer markets would be super charged, salary caps may change, private investment would grow as rich backers first buy clubs and then put money into their clubs in an effort to land the best players. The richest clubs and franchises would benefit most but money and players would move across borders at a steady flow. Suddenly countries like Wales and Scotland would have a much larger pool of players to select from who would be developed and improved in systems belonging to their rivals within superstar squads while their clubs receive large sums in the transfer market. The Six Nations would experience a big boost as the best players become available all the time. The Champions cup would become even more fiercely contested as the dream teams clash. Fan engagement would grow as fans would follow their favourite players creating interest in the game across the continent. Transfer markets and windows would become interesting events in themselves, speculation would drive it and rumours of big transfers and interest in players would spread. All of this is speculation and much of it would not eventuate straight away but just like in football the spread of players and talent would create these conditions over time. The transfer markets in European football is proof of this. Football had the same club vs country debate eons ago and favoured an open system. This has made it the largest game in the world with global interest and big money. Rugby needs to embrace this approach in the long run as well

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Jon 8 hours ago
Waratahs 'counter-culture' limits Wallaby options for Joe Schmidt

This is a bit dramatic for me, I think the Rebels and Force cultures would be very strong, and if a player is chosen from either, you can be confident they are in a good head space and ready. Whether they quite have the technical or tactical foundations of the other two states is where one would way their risk of selection. I see no need for Schmidt to worry about that risk in this squad. The main reason I could see a predominance of players from Brumbies and Reds, is simple cohesion. What might the coaching group make of what’s lacking in the Tahs, and to a lesser extent Rebels and Force’s, franchise? Certainly sides (players) that are running irish plays like we saw from that lovely McDermott long ball with have a head start. I hope the players can continue it at International level. Really liked what I saw of Wright (don’t know player focus and just hadn’t seen a lot of him anyway) in that game, can see him being a glue in a Wallaby side too. A with the similar worry of selecting players like Ryan, I think it unfounded to worry so much about forward balance at the moment. Including both Wright and Skelton in the same lineout is not going to lose you games gainst Wales. Nor will any unknown weakenss Wales might find in Ryan be exploited to any great extent. It is the perfect time to introduce such a young player. What other shortcuts might Schmidt want to make now, just a year out from hosting BIL? When Gamble came on the scene I thought he had a Pocock ability to break game apart along with performing the role of a openside well. I would be very keen to drop Leota/Hooper for Gamble, and in your squad make up, include Uru as a lock. Did you forget to remove Vunivalu from your team? Would you have Meafou in your squad if you could?

114 Go to comments
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