Leicester Tigers must build on their strong set-piece if they are to see off the challenge of Bristol Bears this weekend, according to Dan Cole.
The Tigers and England tighthead explained that a solid scrum and lineout will be vital in the Round 20 clash on Saturday (April 27, 3.00pm), as well as for the two further regular season fixtures against Harlequins and Bath.
“Set-piece is an area that Leicester has always thought about,” Cole said. “We’ve had bad days and good days, but we’ve always tried to get better and better and better, and recently we’ve been on a really good roll in that regard.”
With a set-piece marshalled by scrum specialist Boris Stankovich and lineout guru Mark Bakewell, the time put into finessing the finer details at Oval Park is invaluable when it comes to performing when it matters, assured Cole.
The 31-year-old continued: “We put a decent amount of effort into our scrum – we always have done – and it’s one of the focal points of our game, whether it’s to get penalties to stop the opposition playing, or to try and give us a platform to play off.
“We’re always trying to get better at it, but it’s been good for us this year and will hopefully continue to be good for the next three games.”
And what about the lineout, creaking in the opening rounds but now one of the best in the league?
“Obviously it’s all about the lifters selling dummies off the ball,” Cole joked. “Again, we’ve worked hard at the lineout.
“Tom Youngs, before his ban, was in a real rich vein of form throwing-wise to [Graham Kitchener] with those sort of connections, and they know each other inside out.
“[Jake Kerr] knows his lineouts and he’s a good lineout thrower, and then you’ve got [Tatafu Polota-Nau]; I think he hit one to the tail in the first lineout he had to throw when he came on last week.
“You get in a rhythm of what works calling-wise and combinations, and recently we’ve been on a really good roll.”
“We know different teams play different ways.”Dan Cole
Tigers face a Bristol pack on Saturday that could feature former Leicester forwards Harry Thacker and Jordan Crane, though Cole is adamant that his side must not get distracted by individual match-ups.
“It’s more about how they play and function in that team,” he explained. “We know about them, but Bristol have also got 13 other very good players who can attack us and try and play a free-flowing game.
“That’s something we’ve got to try and negate.”
Bristol’s running game – which has earned head coach Pat Lam and three of his backroom staff call-ups to once again coach the Barbarians this summer – is another aspect that Tigers will hope to shut down at Welford Road on Saturday.
“I don’t mind running around, as long as it leads to something good – like a scrum,” Cole smiled.
“We know different teams play different ways and you have to be adaptable to those.
“When Bristol played Bath at Twickenham they were throwing the ball around from their own goal line and have done all year.
“They’ve stuck to their guns and that’s something we have to recognise.”
Tickets are still available as Tigers welcome Bristol Bears in Round 20 of the Gallagher Premiership season this Saturday, April 27 (3.00pm).
Secure your place – from £25 for adults and £10 for junior supporters – in person at Welford Road, by phone on 0116 319 8888 (option 2), or online using the link below.