‘Tigerness’ shines through for Leicester

Manu Tuilagi, Leicester Tigers is out with a cruciate knee ligament injury.
Manu Tuilagi, Leicester Tigers is out with a cruciate knee ligament injury.
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Head coach Matt O’Connor is pleased with Leicester’s progress since returning to the club but insists there is still work to do to return the Tigers to their former glories.

Despite a turbulent season the club finds itself in a 13th consecutive Aviva Premiership semi-final, when they visit Wasps today.

Three sacked coaches, including Richard Cockerill as director of rugby, long injury absences to Manu Tuilagi, Matt Toomua and Marcos Ayerza and heavy away defeats in Europe have rocked the Tigers’ campaign.

The return of O’Connor as head coach in March not only steadied the ship, it sparked a revival which saw Leicester snatch a fourth-placed finish.

The Australian, who brought the Premiership title to Welford Road in 2013 before leaving for Leinster, says he fully utilised the “Tigerness” in the squad to revive Leicester’s season and sees today’s game with table-topping Wasps at the Ricoh Arena as another step towards making the club a force once more.

“Given the story of the season and the different philosophies it’s been difficult,” said O’Connor. “There’s been a lot of changes above the playing group and a lot of changes and adjustments that have needed to be made along the way.

“We needed to get a bit more clarity back about what we are and how we do our business and what the way forward for the club is, so to be in the semi-finals again is a big thing.

“But this group is really positive and this is the starting point for this group, not the end point.

“The exciting thing is the ‘Tigerness’ of it, for want of a better word; there are a lot of guys who have played a lot of games and experienced the highs and lows.”