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Liebenberg looks ahead to European challenge

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Leicester Tigers have left ‘no stone unturned’ in their preparations for this weekend’s European quarter-final, according to back-rower Hanro Liebenberg.

Castres Olympique are the visitors to Welford Road on Sunday (September 20, 3.00pm) in the round of eight in the European Challenge Cup.

“We’ve been focusing game by game and if we can improve each week, the results will look after themselves,” Liebenberg explained. “We’ve had a look at the Saints game and we’ve moved on from there.

“We’re leaving no stone unturned. At times before lockdown, we showed that we were probably a team that let things slip in the last 20 minutes.

“But we’ve ramped up the intensity to put teams under pressure for the whole game, and we’ll need to be on it for the full 80 minutes again this weekend.”

With improved stats in every element of the game since a resumption to the rugby season, those improvements are clear to see – though the South African affirmed the Tigers squad are under no illusions of the hard work still to come.

“Defence has been an area of focus for us, for sure,” he said.

“We’ve showed some good signs, but there are still things that we can address. Mike [Ford] and Jaco [Taute], especially, have been working hard on getting our DNA right and creating something that we can stand for as a defensive unit.

“I think, slowly but surely, we’re getting there and showing the things that Mike and Jaco want us to do, which is a positive.

“We’re not where we want to be yet, but there have been some positive signs since coming back. We just need to keep working and keep adding those bricks.”

And, ahead of the visit of Castres, the 24-year-old also opened up on his own short stint in France with Stade Francais, and offered an insight into what Tigers can expect on Sunday.

“French rugby, overall, is quite physical,” Liebenberg continued. “They’re known for their physical presence and obviously there’s a huge set-piece battle around scrums and mauls, so we’ve been looking at that during the week.

“I spent three months in France, which was good, and it was a different challenge to what the Premiership brings. A few of the guys have played in France and we’ve been able to contribute this week to give the team a bit of perspective on what a French team will bring.

“Not only do they like to throw the ball wide but they can bring it in tight with their set phases as well, so we know we’ll have our work cut out this weekend.”

A version of this story first appeared in the Leicester Tigers ROAR, the email newsletter sent directly to your inbox twice a week with all the latest news and views from Welford Road and Oval Park.

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