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Borthwick previews Sale away on Sunday

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Steve Borthwick is aware of the challenge waiting for the Leicester Tigers on Sunday afternoon in Sale.

After a fortnight without a fixture, due to last weekend's cancelled Champions Cup clash with Bordeaux Bègles, Tigers take on the Sharks in a return to league action without six members of the squad away on international duty.

"Sale are a very dangerous side, who are capable of causing problems for their opposition with the phased attack and offloading ability they have at their disposal with the ball-in-hand style they implement"

Ollie Chessum, George Ford, Ellis Genge, Joe Heyes, Freddie Steward and Ben Youngs were included in England's squad for the 2022 tournament, seeing them unavailable for selection in Round 14 of the Gallagher Premiership campaign.

But, the Tigers Head Coach is not complaining.

"I am delighted for all of our players who got an international call-up to the England squad, like I always am for whichever Leicester Tigers players achieves their ambitions of making the step-up to Test level," said Borthwick.

"I am proud of them, happy for them and I hope as many of them as possible earn selection in the team."

The absences of the sextet leaves Borthwick short of two front-rowers, a second and back-row option, half-backs and full-back, which tests the depth of the Tigers squad in the build-up to the trip to Sale.

However, it also promotes further competition within the group according to the Leicester boss.

"You need depth throughout the group in case of injuries and international call-ups, which is difficult to predict," he said.

"You want competition for places throughout your squad, collaborative competition where you are working in one direction."

Up front, James Whitcombe will make his debut start in Premiership Rugby and is included alongside six team-mates aged 25-and-under in the matchday squad.

Discussing the fast-tracked growth of the youngsters within his ranks, Borthwick said: "Some growth of young players go exceptionally quickly and you have to plan as well as you possibly can within the salary cap constraints you have."

"That is one of the factors we have been ready to cope with.

"There are other factors we have had to bring in due to the situation here and we have had to work hard to bring players through, recruit externally alongside those young players and coach them as well as you can.

"Yes, they have had a lot of exposure early in their career."

Looking ahead to Sunday's game, Borthwick is preparing for a defensive challenge against the shark attack who have denied Tigers a victory in Sale for almost four years.

"Sale are a very dangerous side, who are capable of causing problems for their opposition with the phased attack and offloading ability they have at their disposal with the ball-in-hand style they implement," he said.

"They are really well coached, have recruited really well over a number of years to build-up a consistent squad and they’ve clearly got a good academy bringing players through.

"Add to that that they have experienced, word class players throughout their squad.

"This is a club who have spent successive years at the top of the Premiership together and are settled in the style Alex Sanderson and his fellow coaches want them to play, which we know will be a big challenge for us on Sunday afternoon away from home."

Tigers sit atop the league table, suffering just one loss to date this season, but for Borthwick the focus is on nothing except what comes next.

"It isn't something we discuss, I say it every week and know it must sound repetitive but it's just the way we operate," said the Tigers Head Coach.

"We review previous results, quickly and then move on to what comes next for us and how we can get better.

"Of course we want to win every game but we do not obsess about results, we talk about performance.

"There is still a very long way to go to get where we want to go at Leicester Tigers."

See the Leicester Tigers matchday squad named for Sunday's Gallagher Premiership game HERE.