The astonishing rebirth of the Leicester Tigers under Steve Borthwick

Last Updated on October 5, 2021 1:29 pm (UK time)

The trouble at Leicester Tigers before Steve Borthwick

The previous two seasons at Welford Road before Steve Borthwick’s arrival were very dark times in the history of the Leicester Tigers. But it seems that those times will continue to be just that, history. With Steve Borthwick, the once great giants of English and European rugby seem to be rapidly returning to former glories, but the question remains how this has been possible in such a short time.

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In the two seasons prior to Borthwick’s arrival, Leicester narrowly avoided relegation and finished second twice. However, under his direction, they finished 6th last season, he reached the final of the European Challenge Cup and is currently on top of the Aviva Premiership winning his first 3 games, two of which were against last season’s Premier League finalists Exeter and one last victory about the newest giant in English rugby, Saracens. This is the first time the Tigers have won 3 consecutive league games since April 2018.

It was not an easy start to Borthwick’s reign having lost 7 of his first 9 Premiership games, including Leicester’s toughest league loss, losing to the Wasps 54-7. The rebuilding task presented to the former Bath and Saracen captain was obvious to all, but what followed represents one of the most extraordinary changes seen in the Premiership.

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With previous head coaches, the fundamental issues had never been resolved or even fully known. The previous head coach Geordan Murphy was perhaps too close to the club, did not have enough experience or had been there too long to realize the problems the club was facing and other coaches such as Matt O’Connor were not in Leicester on time. enough to address the issues.

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Steve Borthwick is an outsider who brings a wealth of experience working as a forward coach with Eddie Jones as England’s forward coach as well as being his assistant with Japan. A new set of eyes and perspective has allowed him, without prejudice, to implement a series of changes in Leicester to great effect.

What’s new at the Leicester Tigers with Steve Borthwick?

A major change with Borthwick is the return to the Leicester Tigers basics, which are forward dominance, mauls and set pieces orientation. This has been a great success as the Leicester front group has once again become one of the most feared forces in English rugby with a maul that is giving incredible results, as seen in the latest win over the Saracens. with a rolling maul that produced the decisive game. Penalty attempt. Nic Dolly is currently the premiership’s top try scorer with his 3 attempts this season coming from mauls.

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To gain this dominance, he also throws Leicester’s largest gun and one that Borthwick was familiar with in his days in England, George Ford. Ford behind a dominant group is one of the best halves in world rugby and we are finally seeing him flourish in a Leicester jersey because he plays behind such a dominant group. This talent was being wasted before playing behind a group that was poorly disciplined and lacked dominance on the win line.

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However, what is a clear indication that Steve Borthwick is stamping his mark on Leicester and that it really indicates a further change of direction is the choice of the captaincy? Who better to decide on a captain to lead Leicester into a new period of success than Borthwick, a former player who was chosen by Martin Johnson himself to be his first England captain in 2008? Not to mention being captain of both Bath and Saracens. No one could be more qualified to decide the new Leicester captain.

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However, taking the reins from Tom Youngs, who had been captain for 5 years, and passing them to Ellis Genge, was an extremely bold decision from Borthwick, but this indicates a changing of the guard and marks a new legacy for Leicester that was much needed.

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So far, this decision appears to have been a stroke of genius, as Ellis Genge treated this prestigious precision with the utmost appreciation and professionalism. With Tom Youngs there to guide Genge as well, this bodes well for his prospects as Leicester Tigers captain.

There has also been a business shift in strategy in terms of new recruits. In previous seasons, he had focused too much on big-name players to provide short-term solutions to Leicester’s problems. This clearly changed this summer with the Leicester Tigers being very discreet in terms of signing names of stars like Johnny May or Jordan Taufua.

The signings of Francois van Wyk, Marco Van Staden and the return of Freddie Burns represent value-for-money deals that deliver much higher quality in depth. This was commented on by new vice captain Hanro Liebenberg, who said before the season that team depth is this season’s greatest asset. “I think there is a lot of competition between the guys now, it’s hard to even pick a 23. That will definitely benefit us when we go down towards the end of the season.”

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In addition to this, the focus has been on bringing in youth players such as Freddie Steward, Jack van Poortvliet, Joe Heyes, George Martin, Dan Kelly, etc. Leicester in its glory days was famous for developing England’s best young players, but in recent years more emphasis has been placed on buying established artists at high salaries who gave little in terms of long-term progress and even less in squad depth terms.

Although, what is possibly the most revolutionary change is something that Steve Borthwick has brought with him from his time with Eddie Jones with England. Leicester has recently implemented in-game statistics to send feedback during games to Tiger coaches, who analyze team, player and opposition performance to alter game management.

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This gives Steve Borthwick crucial information such as which player to take off, when against whom to bring to counter the issues he faces, and what messages or style changes need to be made to accommodate the opposition. This is a new development in rugby performance that looks like Leicester is ahead of its main rivals, but it is the most up-to-date technology in rugby performance.

Ultimately Steve Borthwick has clearly used every tool at his disposal to turn this giant of a rugby club around and these tools appear to be getting the job done. Leicester is currently leading the Aviva Premiership after 3 rounds. The only question that remains is how far can you take them this season and beyond?


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