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Rugby News

Borthwick excited for European occasion

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You could sum up Steve Borthwick’s mood ahead of Saturday’s Heineken Champions Cup quarter-final clash with Leinster using one word.


Like all Leicester Tigers supporters - and players, coaches, staff - the club’s Head Coach is pleased to see knockout rugby back at Mattioli Woods Welford Road.

“What an exciting thing for our players, our coaches and our supporters,” said Borthwick.

“It’s a brilliant opportunity on the pitch for the players against a side of Leinster’s quality, but I am also delighted we can host a game like this - there were not many of this level for a year few years here.”

Tigers last featured at this stage of the top-level European competition six years ago, having enjoyed an impressive record of reach the quarter-finals in twelve of the competition’s first sixteen years.

However, in both Europe and domestic league and Cup competitions, it has not been a busy back-end of the season for Leicester in the past half-decade.

Before last season’s run to the Challenge Cup final, Tigers had not played knockout rugby in any competition since the 2016/17 Anglo-Welsh Cup winning campaign.

"It gets into your core this club, there is something about Leicester Tigers that has a way of getting under your skin and into you"

Steve Borthwick

Now, Borthwick and his new-look Leicester are back fighting for a place in the semi-finals of the Champions Cup - but, in their way is the competition’s most successful side in recent history - and the magnitude of the challenge is not lost on the Head Coach.

“They are a very good side, nobody would say otherwise,” said Borthwick.

“They’ve earned that right with incredible success in recent times and have a squad full of internationals, including more two-thirds of the Irish squad in this season’s Six Nations.

“This is a group that have been together a long time, come through together and grow up playing rugby together in the Leinster system.

“It will be an incredible challenge, but what a great opportunity for us against a team of their quality and what a great test.”

Leinster boast four Heineken Champions Cup titles, three of which have come in the ten seasons prior to this one, and have collected an incredible eight major trophies - in all competitions - during that same period.

Leo Cullen, well known to many at Mattioli Woods Welford Road after his 56 appearances for Tigers from 2005-07, has been at the helm of the Dublin-based franchise since 2015 and played a part on and off the pitch in all four of the side’s European trophy winning seasons.

Asked about his opposition coach ahead of the weekend, Borthwick was complimentary of his fellow second-rower’s tenure.

“He has done an excellent job for a number of seasons,” said the Tigers boss.

“It is not only the playing group that have been together a long time but the coaching team also, led by Leo Cullen, and have incredible experience and resource to draw upon throughout that team and at the organisation.”

While aware of the challenge Leinster will be and step-up in level required in a quarter-final against such a side, Borthwick is adamant nothing changes for he, his coaches and players in the build-up to Saturday.

“I spend time analysing the opposition, but other than that I focus very little time on them,” he said.

“I focus on things I can have an influence on. What I try to do is get preparation of my team right.

“This weekend is about doing the basics, the fundamentals really well. I don’t talk about winning or losing, I talk about performance. That hasn’t and won’t change for one game.”

While the majority of Leinster’s side will come to Leicester on the back of a fortnight without a fixture, after being rested from their tour of South Africa, Tigers come into Saturday’s showdown having faced the reigning English champions, a mid-week Cup match in London and a game against Bristol Bears.

More than 20,000 fans packed into Mattioli Woods Welford Road last weekend and, as he has all season, Borthwick continues to pay tribute to the efforts of those Tigers in the stands for their part in the club’s journey.

Speaking about the Tigers Family, he said: “It gets into your core this club, there is something about Leicester Tigers that has a way of getting under your skin and into you.”

“I have never felt it before, anywhere I have been … the level of care, the level of support the fans have for the players, have for the team, is at a different level than what I have ever experienced.

“I hope the supporters see that this group of players have it too. We don’t just say that we want to make them proud every weekend for the sake of it, we mean it.

“We know what they give for us, to us, and so whenever we have the privilege of representing them, we want them to come away from it proud of what they have seen.

“I am excited for Saturday, excited to share this occasion with what is hopefully another 20,000 plus crowd at Mattioli Woods Welford Road.

Steve Borthwick will name his matchday squad for the Heineken Champions Cup Quarter-Final against Leinster Rugby at 12.00pm on Friday, May 6.