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Full focus forwards according to Cole

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Dan Cole discusses a year of change at Leicester Tigers, the focus solely remaining on the future and patience required as the squad is re-shaped in the image of Head Coach Steve Borthwick.

“Are you thinking about what you are doing this weekend or just talking about what you got up to last weekend?”

Dan Cole raises a a fair point with his reply to a question about the Round 7 loss to Sale Sharks at Mattioli Woods Welford Road, before the Leicester Tigers front-rower adds: “You can pick it apart forever, it doesn’t change the result. Our job is to get on with it and deliver a better performance in the next game, which is Worcester on Saturday afternoon.” 

The Tigers welcome the Warriors in Round 8 of the Gallagher Premiership season, sitting five match points higher than the visitors. 

However, when you pose that point to Cole, the front-rower comes back quickly again with a reminder that the table doesn’t tell the full tale. 

“Looking at the ladder this season isn’t helpful, with all the changes almost weekly to matches,” says Cole. 

“Almost every team has had a match cancelled or been impacted by the cancellation of another match and after seven rounds, more than half the teams have missed games.

“That’s just the situation we are in this season and, even in a normal year, you don’t look at the ladder as a player.

“We have analysts and a coaching team, plus all of the media and fans, to break down the numbers and potential outcomes of every game, I’m just here to push in the scrum, aren’t I?” 

In the 18 meetings between Leicester and Worcester at Mattioli Woods Welford Road, Tigers have won more than 80 per cent of the match-ups. 

However, in the four most recent meetings at the historic venue, Warriors headed home victorious on three occasions and it’s not lost on Cole that history - ancient or modern - will be discussed on message boards and shared on social media in the build-up. 

“It will be mentioned, I’m sure,” says the 33-year-old. 

“But, as you know, I’m technologically challenged and so it won’t be anything I see or read. Thank you for bringing it up though, appreciate it.

“Seriously, though, we are a different team and club now after some big changes over the past 12 months and it’s like looking back at last weekend, we aren’t going to be looking back at last season or before that because it doesn’t help prepare us for what we have ahead.”

Delving further in to those changes at the club, Cole admits it’s a work in progress but the positive sign is that there is progress. 

“We are making positive steps forward and I think we're seeing progress being made across the squad and that is more than just every 80-minute performance that is seen on the weekends,” says Cole. 

“There is a lot of work ahead of us and a lot of improvement in us, but we are confident in what we are doing and it’s a relatively new group that has come together in a very short space of time.

“I am enjoying being part of it and confident that we are going in the right direction.” 

Cole, who is closing in on his 250th appearance for Tigers, also believes the evidence of change is there to be seen every time the team is announced.

“We are definitely a new team when you look at how little rugby we have played together as a group,” adds Cole.

“I think last weekend, Freddie Steward was the most experienced Tigers player in the backline and he’s only had a dozen Prem games for the club.

“That is where we are after those changes I mentioned, Like you hear Steve say, this is a period where we are re-shaping the squad and the more we can get games together, the better we will be for it."

Dig a little deeper into the appearance tally for players in a Tigers shirt from the most recent matchday squad and you will see the point clearly.

Only three players - Cole, Tom Youngs (200) and Harry Wells (106) - from the team that faced Sale have made more than 100 appearances for the club. Meanwhile, 21-year-old Joe Heyes is the fourth-most-experienced member of the team after 53 games.

The average number appearances in Tigers colours for the squad last Friday was 36, which becomes just 14 games in a Leicester shirt among the remaining 20 players if you remove Cole, Youngs and Wells. 

As the stone-faced front-rower said at the beginning, it appears all eyes are focused forwards at Leicester Tigers.

The Tigers team for Saturday’s Gallagher Premiership fixture at Mattioli Woods Welford Road will be named at midday on Friday.