Throwing down the gauntlet
CONNACHT HAVE TALKED A LOT ABOUT THEIR GOOD FORM AWAY FROM HOME – BORTHWICK
LEICESTER Tigers head coach Steve Borthwick has thrown down the gauntlet to visitors Connacht ahead of their European Challenge Cup last 16 clash at Mattioli Woods Welford Road tomorrow evening, writes Tom Eales.
Tigers’ opponents finished second in Conference B of the Pro14 despite winning only half of their matches, but Borthwick is under no illusions when it comes to the quality of the opposition.
“This weekend is an exciting game, they’re a very good team,” he said.
“They’ve shown that with some great results and great results away from home.”
Five of Connacht’s eight Pro14 wins came on the road, including notable away victories over Edinburgh, Dragons and eventual champions Leinster.
Despite the Irish side losing their final away fixture of the 2020-2021 Pro14 season – the 11try thriller with Scarlets 41-36 – Borthwick quipped that he was well aware of his opponents’ good record when playing away from The Sportsground.
“They’ve talked a lot about it, haven’t they? They’ve talked a lot about their form away from home – they’ve said a lot, so I think it’s an exciting game”
The talk coming from the Connacht camp was indeed a main point of focus for Borthwick on media duty this week.
He referenced their openness in discussing their Challenge Cup aspirations and their desire to overcome their poor record against English teams, something that Connacht coach Andy Friend described as a “hoodoo” earlier in the week.
“This is a good team we’re playing against, we’re going to have to be very good this weekend – we know it’s a huge challenge” said Borthwick
“They’ve come out and talked a lot about their aspirations for this tournament, they’ve talked about wanting to beat Leicester at Welford Road, so we know it’s going to be a real intense encounter.”
While keen to discuss his opponents pre-game chatter, Borthwick was also full of praise for his coaching counterpart Friend, who he said has done a “fantastic job” at Connacht.
The Tigers coach, right, highlighted Connacht’s ability to vary and tailor their game depending on their opponent, something he attributes to Friend’s coaching ability.
“They were scoring tries from their own half against Scarlets, then you look at what they did against Leinster, when they’re squeezing and scoring an interception because they’re getting pressure from the defence,” said Borthwick.
“The first 15 minutes of rugby they played against Munster at Thomond Park, they just pressured and Munster couldn’t get out of their own half – to be able to do that is great coaching and that’s credit to Andy Friend.”
When it came to his own side and their preparations, Borthwick was direct in his reply when asked whether he would prepare his team any differently ahead of this weekend’s knockout clash.
“I want to win every game, I try and set a team up to win the game and I try and keep it pretty much as simple as that,” he said.