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Rugby News

Borthwick pleased by positive steps forward for Tigers squad

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Steve Borthwick praised the efforts of his entire Leicester Tigers squad after the European Challenge Cup semi-final win over Ulster Rugby on Friday night.

Speaking post-match, the Tigers head coach said: “People have different roles to play. We’ve talked about it before, it’s always a 23-man effort for the full 80 minutes.”

“I also want to thank the efforts of the non-playing squad members for their efforts in helping to prepare the team so well this week.

“They’re a big part of this tonight.”

Borthwick’s side overturned an eleven-point deficit at the break and the Tigers head coach had only one word to describe to the first 40 minutes.

“Poor,” said Borthwick, before adding: “The first half we were poor … Ulster outplayed us, got on top of us.”

However, the Tigers head coach believes the lapses were tactical and there was a need to work smarter-not-harder from his players.

“The players’ response was fantastic,” said the Tigers coach when asked about the turnaround in the second-half.

“There was no question of effort from our players tonight at any time, but in the second half we were smarter in how we used it.”

Tigers now face the winner of Bath or Montpellier at Twickenham in the Challenge Cup Final, which Borthwick says is something he is proud to have delivered for Leicester supporters.

However, believes it’s not for his side to focus on as attention returns to the Premiership campaign away at Sale Sharks next Friday night.

“It would mean an awful a lot to our supporters but, for now, our focus switches immediately to Sale next Friday night,” he said.

“We can enjoy the victory and should enjoy the victory … but it is only small steps forward this week for us as a group and there is still plenty of us to take away from this evening’s game and learn from, work on and improve on.”

While the fans were unable to share the win in person with the squad at Mattioli Woods Welford Road, the Tigers head coach also believes one Leicester supporter – albeit in spirit – was right there with the team until the final whistle.

Speaking about former Tigers player and BBC Radio Leicester commentator Bleddyn Jones, who passed away unexpectedly this week, Borthwick said: “I didn’t know him personally, but many, many people have spoken to me about him and what he gave to this club, it was an incredible contribution.”

“The amount of words I have seen said about him from players, past and present, as well as supporters and his colleagues, you can see he was a big part of the club and leaves behind a huge legacy.

“I’m sure, tonight, he was watching on and hopefully enjoying that performance from the players.”

Read the Match Report HERE.