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Borthwick previews Bath trip

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Steve Borthwick is looking for as much from the heart of his players as he is from their head.

While the Leicester Tigers Head Coach says tactics are “of course” important, it is “effort” - above all - that he is asking for from his squad every day.

Asked about the performance of his side last Friday night, to deliver a bonus-point victory over Northampton Saints at Mattioli Woods Welford Road, Borthwick said: “I want my players to be smart, I want the team to be smart when they are out there on game day.”

“We want to be tactically smart in the way we play, of course, but what we are looking for from the players is effort.”

However, according to the Tigers boss, it is not just he and his coaching team who deserve unrivalled effort from the Leicester squad.

“We are privileged to have such brilliant fans here at Leicester Tigers and what they deserve, every week, is a team that plays hard,” added Borthwick.

“Wherever we are playing and whoever we are playing, home or away, Tigers fans deserve a team that puts in the effort.

“We want our performances to make our supporters proud.”

Following a month on the road, the Tigers squad have enjoyed huge back-to-back home crowds in recent weeks including more than 23,000 fans at last week’s East Midlands Derby.

"There has been a lot of investment, on and off the pitch, in that group over a number of years and you can see the quality"

This weekend, it’s a trip south to Somerset for a showdown with long-time rivals Bath Rugby at The Recreation Ground where Leicester have not won a Premiership fixture for more than a decade.

Previewing Saturday’s fixture, Borthwick said of this weekend’s opponents: “I am sure they are disappointed with what has gone on so far this season.”

“But, that has no bearing on us and is not something we will be discussing this week.

“Our focus is always very much on our performance and that won’t be any different this week, as we prepare to go down to The Rec and deliver a performance that we, our fans and everyone involved with Leicester Tigers can be proud of.”

The debut of mid-season signing Chris Ashton during last week’s win over Northampton saw Borthwick use his 50th player for the 21/22 campaign to date, in all competitions, and the Tigers boss is again expected to head into Saturday’s fixture with a handful of unavailable players through international duty.

Bath too will be missing members of their squad, but have welcomed back of a host of big names in recent weeks - as well as their own international mid-season arrival.

Discussing Leicester’s opponents and the make-up of their roster, the Tigers boss added: “If you were looking through Premiership squads at the start of the season, you would look at Bath as one of the strongest in the league.”

“The group Stuart Hooper has there, with the likes of Jonathan Joseph, Ben Spencer, Taulupe Faletau and now the added experience of Nathan Hughes, it is a seriously impressive group of players.

“There has been a lot of investment, on and off the pitch, in that group over a number of years and you can see the quality throughout it.”

Tigers head into the weekend’s match on the back of successive away defeats in the league at The Rec, where Leicester’s win record is just shy of 40% in more than 100 appearances at the home of Bath Rugby.

And, Borthwick is someone who knows better than most the impact of the Bath home crowd after almost 250 appearances for the Somerset club during his own playing days.

“It has not been an enjoyable place for Leicester Tigers in the Premiership for a long time,” said Borthwick about the venue for Saturday’s match.

“They will have a big crowd there, including what will undoubtedly be a great away group of our supporters, and I have no doubt that they [Bath] will be very keen on getting a good result at The Rec against Leicester Tigers.”

Steve Borthwick names his Leicester Tigers matchday squad at midday on Friday (February 18) to play Bath Rugby on Saturday at The Recreation Ground.