Leicester Tigers lock Joe Maksymiw admits the buzz-word around the club’s Oval Park training ground is ‘opportunity’ this week as the squad prepares for Round 3 of this season’s Anglo-Welsh Cup competition.
Welford Road will welcome the Cardiff Blues on Saturday afternoon and it isn’t just the on-field squad which will be shaken up, with assistant coach Geordan Murphy to step in to the top job as he has in both games already played in the competition this season.
With a quartet of England stars away preparing for the Six Nations and a host of senior players expected to be rested after a gruelling period including Premiership and European fixtures, the younger members of the Tigers squad are expected to be called upon by Murphy to do a job.
“It’s a real good opportunity for us to show what we’re about,” said Maksymiw.
“The competition gives younger lads an opportunity to go out there and play.
“A lot of the younger boys get an opportunity this week, which is something Geordie has talked about.”
If named to play, Maksymiw will feature in just his fifth match of the season which included a European debut a fortnight ago in the club’s Champions Cup clash away at Castres.
“It was really good, I really enjoyed being there in Castres,” he said. “I wasn’t on for too long but to get that experience was great.”
The match would be just the 11th in the shot career of the 22-year-old, who made his debut in November 2014, and he’s unashamedly keen to add a more consistent run to his stats sheet, starting this weekend.
“For myself, I’m looking forward to what is hopefully two games I’ll feature in and build on performances that I can show to the coaches that I can be a rotation player within the squad.”
The 6ft 7in youngster doesn’t need to look far for inspiration in taking advantage of the chances presented, with fellow forward Harry Wells serving as an example in recent weeks as to what is required.
“Wellsy is really good example of someone who has taken his opportunity,” said Maksymiw.
“As a young player that’s something you look at and want to go for. We see Wellsy do that and think that’s what we want to do, we want to prove to the coaching staff that we’re good enough to cement a spot in the first team like Wellsy is now.
“As a group of second-rowers we all get on really well. There’s a meeting each Monday to discuss our calls and the senior guys like Kitch, Fitzy and Dom Barrow are also all really good guys to go to and speak about what you’re looking to achieve each week.”
With Barrow unavailable with a neck complaint, and Graham Kitchener and Mike Fitzgerald having featured heavily through the past couple of months, Maksymiw also said it was the job of those called upon during the next fortnight to return the momentum to the squad - starting in front of the Tigers Family.
“We need to get some momentum back for the club and give those fans that come down to Welford Road a win,” he said. “I keep saying it but it really is all about the opportunity this week.”
Hear more from Joe in a special Anglo-Welsh Cup LTTV interview on YouTube this weekend.