Steve Borthwick and his Leicester Tigers squad are excited ahead of a return to action in this season’s Heineken Champions Cup.
In the first of back-to-back weekends up against Clermont Auvergne, in France, Tigers will face not only a formidable outfit on the field but one of Europe’s most famous crowds at the Stade Marcel-Michelin.
Borthwick, who came up against Clermont in his playing days, admits it is something that has been discussed but only in terms of the excitement among those at Oval Park ahead of the unique experience.
“It is exciting, it is not every week you get to play in places like Clermont. That is why this adventure in Europe is brilliant for us,” he said.
“For us, at this stage of our journey as a group, it is a fantastic adventure.
“It is a great competition and Sunday’s game is one we are really looking forward to in front of what we know will be a vocal, passionate Clermont crowd - but we are also aware there will be plenty of Leicester Tigers fans there, making plenty of noise.”
Speaking about Sunday’s opposition on the field, Borthwick said: “Clermont are an excellent side with a great balance throughout their team.”
“They have a big, powerful forward pack with a very good scrum, very good maul and experienced half backs who boss a game really well, controlling things, and electric pace and power out wide in a dangerous backline.”
Borthwick and spent the most recent round of the English league watching on, with a bye weekend, which the Leicester Head Coach says was a chance for not only players, but coaches and staff, to switch off.
“We had a two games in 48 hours, with Exeter Chiefs away followed by a Cup game on the Tuesday evening, which was a challenge in itself for our group,” said Borthwick.
“But, I was incredibly proud of the effort of the players and everybody at the club to deliver the performances we did in such a short space of time.
“Then, with the weekend off, it was an opportunity for players and a lot of people around the team to have a break."
However, Borthwick himself admitted it was not so much a break for himself but more of a chance to switch the focus to the next challenge earlier than usual.
“We only ever focus on the next game, so that meant this 1st Leg fixture was on my mind a bit earlier than usual,” he said.
“What happens in coaching is the brain never really switches off from rugby and so I think in other times, when you are relaxed, is when ideas come.
“I took that opportunity to prepare around this game a bit earlier and, once Sunday is over, we will focus on the 2nd Leg. But, for us, it’s only about Sunday this week - for us, it is only ever about the next game.”
While Leicester will be looking slightly further ahead than Borthwick, with the return fixture at Mattioli Woods Welford Road expected to be jam-packed for the 2nd Leg, he is also aware that the travelling support on Sunday for the 1st Leg will be - again - excellent.
“I have never experienced a group of supporters like we have at Leicester Tigers,” said Borthwick.
“The way they have supported the team this season, flooding back as soon as they were able to be in the stands, at home and on the road, has been excellent.
“We understand the privilege of having the support like we do and look forward to delivering a performance on Sunday in Clermont that those at the Stade Marcel-Michelin and back home in Leicester are proud to see.”
See the Leicester Tigers matchday squad HERE.