Leicester Tigers Head Coach Steve Borthwick previews Saturday's Gallagher Premiership game against London Irish.
Leicester Tigers welcome The Exiles to Mattioli Woods Welford Road in Round 20 of the 21/22 league campaign, with the Londoners on a run of four Premiership games without defeat and having registered more than 40 points last weekend.
Looking ahead to Saturday, Borthwick said: “You just need to take a lot at the quality individuals throughout their squad to see what an excellent team they have.”
“There are some big international names in the Irish group like Creevy, Simmons, O’Brien, Coleman, Phipps, Jackson, to name only a few.
“They are a dangerous group of experienced players, with probably the most-experienced coaching team in the league leading them in Declan Kidney, Les Kiss and Brad Davis.”
There has been more room to move than usual on the training paddock at the club’s Oval Park base this week with seven members of Borthwick’s squad in camp with England as the national side prepare for their own Irish encounter.
"That style, running from their own half with the pace that they have, it makes them a dangerous team ... that London Irish attack is a real threat.”
Ollie Chessum, Nic Dolly, George Ford, Ellis Genge, Joe Heyes, Freddie Steward and Ben Youngs were all included when Eddie Jones announced a 36-man squad on Sunday evening, before the England boss confirmed he would retain six of the group in a 26-strong outfit in Tuesday night’s squad update.
While Dolly’s return provides a boost for Borthwick up front, he will be without more than 650 Tigers appearances of experience with the half-dozen set to be at Twickenham on Saturday afternoon.
However, the Tigers Head Coach said the achievement was one which had the club buzzing for their mates.
“It’s tremendous, everybody here is proud of all of them for being selected,” said Borthwick.
“I don’t know the other allocations from the rest of the league but to have Leicester Tigers making up a quarter of a national squad is excellent, I am certain the supporters are incredibly proud.
“They are fighting for a place in an international side, which is brilliant and I am so delighted for all of them.
“I am delighted whenever any Leicester Tigers player is selected by their national team and will always be willing to help players on their journey if they have aspirations to play Test rugby.
“But, while we will look forward to watching whoever of them plays on Saturday at Twickenham, we are focused on our game against London Irish and preparing with the group here, who are working hard this week.”
Looking a little deeper into the opponents, who have scored more tries than any other team in this season’s competition and are averaging almost 40 points a game in the past month, Borthwick admitted the start-studded Exiles were threatening.
“When they play that running rugby they play, you can see how dangerous they are,” he said.
“That style, running from their own half with the pace that they have, it makes them a dangerous team.
“That London Irish attack is a real threat.”
With the quartet of Chessum, Dolly, Ford and Heyes all featuring in Leicester’s last-start and at least three of the group unavailable to line-up for Tigers on Saturday at home, it seems inevitable Borthwick will make changes to what was already the least experienced and youngest forward pack of the league season to date.
But, it’s not a new challenge for him come selection time according to the Tigers boss.
“That is the situation we have been in since I arrived,” Borthwick said.
“Since what happened 18 months ago, we have needed young players to come through and had teams with very little experience alongside one another every week.
“It has not changed and won’t for a period of time as we continue to re-shape this squad.”
Borthwick will announce his Leicester Tigers matchday squad for Saturday’s Gallagher Premiership game at 12.00pm on Friday, March 11.