Even after almost a month without a league appearance and almost 1,000 Leicester Tigers appearances of experience out of the selection mix, Steve Borthwick says nobody will be complaining.
Speaking ahead of the club’s first Gallagher Premiership match since mid-October, the Leicester Tigers Head Coach refused to complain – and instead chose to shine a light on why the situation is “bigger” than unfulfilled fixtures.
“It is what it is; we had no choice in the matter and, we aren’t going to complain about it,” said Borthwick when asked about his thoughts on the loss of two teams from the competition.
“There is a human element in all of this too, it isn’t just about losing rugby teams – we feel for everybody involved at Wasps and Worcester on a personal level for what they are going through. It’s bigger than just having less teams in the Premiership.
“Do you want to have some consistency to be able to keep building? Yes, of course, especially as we had players getting their first game of the season each week up until Round 6.
“But, we adapt and have just tried to train well in this month.”
International rugby has presented a challenge to Tigers – more than most – this season.
Several members of the squad spent the summer on tour, staggering their starts to the campaign, while ten members of the Tigers squad are away on international duty this week, with nine featuring in last weekend’s Autumn Test openers across six national teams.
In a season where a third of the players are new to the group and cohesion at the forefront of focus, the challenge continues to grow – but Borthwick sees it as an opportunity for the less experienced members of his squad.
“You are always looking to build cohesion at the start of a season, building combinations and growing the understanding between players,” added Borthwick.
“It has been a challenge for us, we had a lot of players away with the summer Test matches and Rugby Championship and now there are ten away in this Autumn window.
“With those players away and some injuries, there are about 1,000 Leicester Tigers appearances not available at the moment. It tests the top-end of your Academy, tests your depth but nothing is or has been easy for us and so it’s not unusual to have a challenge.”
One new face still finding his way in the group is Charlie Atkinson, who is yet to make a senior appearance for the club but did feature off the bench for a spell in the exhibition match at Mattioli Woods Welford Road.
Asked about first impressions of the new addition, Borthwick said: “Charlie is an impressive young man and a very good player who has incredible potential.”
“He’s already a top player, at a very young age, and has adapted really well on and off the field into the club.
“Most pleasingly, there is immense potential for growth in him, physically and tactically and it is great to have him here at Leicester Tigers.”
Looking ahead to Friday night’s fixture against the club he knows all too well, after more than 200 appearances for Bath, Borthwick is well aware of the challenge awaiting Tigers at The Rec – especially from a revitalised, new-look group.
“From our side of things, which is where we are focused, there have been periods so far this season we have been very close and others in which we have not played as well as we would like,” said the Tigers boss.
“We have tried to use the month without a league game to learn, to improve and we are looking forward to getting going again on Friday night against Bath.
“Squads have been able to strengthen in this period, of which Bath are one and have added some quality including internationals into their mix – while we are missing more than a dozen, so I would imagine they are licking their lips.
“But, like I have always said, we adapt and we will go to Bath on Friday prepared to deliver a performance we can be proud of, supporters can be proud of and do the best we can for the club.”