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Leicester boss Richard Cockerill calls for quality against Saracens

Published 28/10/2016

Leicester rugby director Richard Cockerill is fully aware of the challenge facing his players against Saracens
Leicester rugby director Richard Cockerill is fully aware of the challenge facing his players against Saracens

Richard Cockerill wants Leicester to replicate the quality that accounted for French champions Racing 92 when the Tigers visit Aviva Premiership leaders Saracens on Saturday.

Leicester ignited their European Champions Cup campaign by seeing off Dan Carter and company 27-17 last Sunday, but they now tackle opponents unbeaten at their Allianz Park home for almost six months, and it is also a ground where the Tigers have never won.

"Saracens are a good side," Leicester rugby director Cockerill said. "Their record over the last few seasons proves that.

"The challenge has been laid down, and it is all for us to do.

"We have to go there and get among it like we did against Racing last weekend. That was a very good win against a very good team.

"We know we are a good side if we get it right - we have to get it right more often.

"Let's make sure we replicate what we did for Bath (in the Premiership) and Racing, and make sure we are physically and mentally up for every game."

Leicester, though, will be without Australian centre Matt Toomua, whose home debut against Racing ended with him suffering a knee injury that required surgery - and the prospect of a six-month absence.

"It was just an accident," Cockerill added. "Matt stepped and twisted it, and his knee has given way.

"He is obviously bitterly disappointed. Matt wanted to come in here and make a big impression, and we have already seen he is a top-quality player.

"We are all disappointed for him, but that's the way it falls sometimes. Matt will be well looked after, and we look forward to having him back in the squad when he is fully recovered."

Saracens, beaten once during their last 18 games in all competitions, switch flanker Michael Rhodes to second-row duty alongside Jim Hamilton, with England locks Maro Itoje and George Kruis both injured, but skipper Brad Barritt is back after missing last Saturday's Champions Cup win against the Scarlets.

"Under Richard Cockerill, Leicester have consistently challenged for the top spots in the Premiership, and last weekend against Racing 92 they produced a performance that underlines how competitive a side they are this season," Saracens rugby director Mark McCall said.

"For ourselves, last weekend saw us record a win over a talented Scarlets outfit, but there were aspects of our game that we can improve upon."

Saturday's other Premiership game sees Harlequins hosting Worcester, and while Quins welcome back the likes of international pair Danny Care and Tim Visser, they have lost centre Harry Sloan and lock Sam Twomey for lengthy periods.

Sloan will not play again this season due to a knee problem, while Twomey faces surgery on a foot injury.

Quins rugby director John Kingston said: "Both Harry and Sam have unfortunately sustained lengthy injuries which require surgery. I have no doubt they will be doing everything they can to return to fitness as quickly as possible.

"We are looking forward to returning to the Premiership, and we are hoping to sustain our excellent home record. Worcester have shown already this season that they are a quality outfit, and we will need to be at our best to keep that run going."

Sunday's Premiership action sees Bristol - boosted by centre Gavin Henson's return from injury - aiming to end an eight-match losing run in all competitions this season when Sale Sharks visit Ashton Gate, while Exeter host Bath and Wasps entertain Newcastle.

"The desire and work-rate is there," Bristol rugby director Andy Robinson said. "The key this weekend is to cut out the individual errors and really put Sale under pressure in the right areas.

"It's a hugely-important game for us, and we approach Sunday with a positive attitude."

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