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Marcos Ayerza vows Leicester will prove pack humiliation was a one-off

Published 08/01/2016

Prop Marcos Ayerza admits Leicester are
Prop Marcos Ayerza admits Leicester are "bleeding" from the manner of their defeat by Saracens

Marcos Ayerza insists Leicester's season would be over if their pack are forced into retreat for a second successive weekend in Saturday's East Midlands derby against Northampton.

The Tigers conceded an Aviva Premiership record of three penalty tries in the 26-6 rout by Saracens at Allianz Park, each of them at the set-piece with two endured during scrums that were in full flight.

For a club founded on forward might, it was a chastening afternoon that director of rugby Richard Cockerill admits has left a "sick feeling in our bellies", noting that Leicester props "start at scrummaging and then work backwards".

Ayerza, regarded as the best loosehead in the game, was among those to suffer at Saracens and knows another pride-sapping afternoon can not be tolerated when title rivals Northampton visit Welford Road.

"We are bleeding and we want to put things right. We owe it ourselves and the coaching team, but also to the Leicester community that loves and breathes rugby," the Argentina prop said.

"Our fans love the club and are passionate about its history and identity. They expect us to win every time we play. That adds pressure, but it's good pressure.

"It should not be possible to have a game like Saracens when we were driven and pushed backwards and came second best in most facets of the game. If it happens again, but against Northampton, that's the end of the season!

"We have to put things right. One of the things a scrum needs is a dominant mentality.

"By the end against Saracens we were almost mentally broken. We have to work on our mental toughness. But one bad day at the office doesn't make us a bad pack."

England head coach Eddie Jones will be watching from the stands when Leicester attempt to prevent Northampton supplanting them in fourth place with prop Dan Cole, hooker Tom Youngs and flanker Brendon O'Connor hoping to impress the Australian.

Saints have named Dylan Hartley on the bench for a second successive match, limiting his chance to press his claim to becoming Red Rose captain, but Tom Wood has recovered from a shoulder problem and will make his comeback among the replacements.

England duels abound at Twickenham Stoop where Harlequins and Saracens will collide in front of Steve Borthwick, Jones' right-hand man.

Premiership leaders Saracens are the only unbeaten team in Europe's three primary leagues and are hoping to extend their triumphant run to 16 matches, a sequence that dates back to last season.

Harlequins have been strengthened by the summer arrival of centre Jamie Roberts, prop Adam Jones and second-row James Horwill - all of whom are starting - and have aspiration of repeating their 2012 title triumph.

"Harlequins have been a good team for some time and I think they have a really healthy squad at the moment," Saracens director of rugby Mark McCall said.

"We just want to keep our momentum going and keep fronting up to play as well as we can. We're in a good place but we know this will be a tough game."

In Saturday's third and final fixture, Exeter are hoping to bounce back from their defeat by Northampton when they host Gloucester at Sandy Park.

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