Greg Bateman says competition for places in the Leicester Tigers squad this season is helping improve the depth of the squad.
The European Challenge Cup has seen many of the wider squad given opportunities in first-team action, putting in some impressive performances as Tigers topped Pool 5 with five wins in six games to reach the quarter-finals.
And Bateman says the competition for places has seen an improvement in the squad’s overall quality.
“I think that’s the only way that you can keep a good performance environment – if you’ve got lads chomping at the bit for your space and you’re chomping at the bit for somebody else’s,” the prop said.
“True competition is what breeds that performance environment and the quality of the squad we’ve got has got better over the last couple of years so I think we’re in a pretty good spot.”
Now with the Six Nations players away on international duty, the rest of the squad will have to step up and Bateman says a tough pre-season means the squad has become a lot tighter which helps them on the pitch.
“This group now is often the group that did the pre-season together,” he said.
“The England boys were away, and we did the Army camp together and the Portugal camp together.
“We’ve been through that tough, gritty grind together and it’s not like these are lads we haven’t trained with every day just because the England lads are here, and those lads are going to want to put their hands up and want to get involved.
“Pete Drucker [the management consultant and author] said ‘Culture eats strategy for breakfast.’ I think having a culture where lads want to play for each other and want to dig in makes a massive difference over a well-worked game-plan.
“The want to win only comes from really caring for the people either side of you and we went to hell and back in pre-season together and we want to put the performances together to show that.”
Tigers return to Gallagher Premiership action with a trip to Bath on Saturday before a two-week mid-season break.
Bateman says that coming up against a physical Bath pack will be a big challenge for him and his fellow forwards.
“It’s going to be a big job for the pack as they pride themselves on their ability in the scrum and the driving maul, but so do we,” he said.