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Team Talk: Steve Borthwick

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Leicester Tigers head coach Steve Borthwick discusses the matchday squad named to take on Toulon in the semi-final of the 2019/20 European Challenge Cup.

Speaking to LTTV at the club’s Oval Park training ground, Borthwick admitted it was an “exciting” blend of experience and Tigers academy graduates making up the squad to travel to France.

“We have got an exciting team to play in the semi-final at Toulon on Saturday,” he said.

“We have got a great blend off experienced players, who have experienced European rugby, we have got players who have recently been playing in France and also some exciting younger players who are products of the Leicester Tigers Academy.”

In the only change to the matchday squad named for the cancelled quarter-final against Castres, Thom Smith comes on to the Tigers bench in place of the injured Jordan Taufua.

When asked about Smith, Borthwick praised the youngster’s effort and energy.

“In terms of work ethic, I don’t think anybody works harder than him,” said Borthwick.

“He applies himself to improve every single day, he is somebody who brings immense energy to the team.”

On the missed opportunity to take on Castres, he added: “As soon as we knew the game was not going to take place, we did a tough training session and that puts us in the right preparation in terms of the timing as we approach the game against Toulon.

“The preparation here has been thorough and the players’ application and dedication has been superb.”

The semi-final will be just the fourth meeting between Tigers and Toulon, who share five European titles between them, and Borthwick believes the French outfit are an “exciting challenge” for the Leicester squad.

“They’re a team that has undergone a bit of change, but they are a team that still full of international players, big-name players and I think everyone is excited about going down there and taking on this challenge,” he told LTTV.

Even with Premiership Rugby finals out of the equation, Borthwick said the only reason the fixture was the most important for Tigers is  that it is the next fixture and admitted many had already written-off his side before kick-off.

“Every game is important for Leicester Tigers and this is the next game, so therefore it is our most important game,” responded Borthwick.

“Lots of people have said to me this week, outside of this squad, nobody gives us a chance in this game.

“What I see is a squad of young men who are determined to do well and are committed to do well and will be well prepared by Saturday night.”

Watch the latest edition of Team Talk above on LTTV.