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Youngs: We are the underdogs

Published 17/05/2015

Leicester captain Ben Youngs is relishing an Aviva Premiership play-off clash against Bath
Leicester captain Ben Youngs is relishing an Aviva Premiership play-off clash against Bath

Ben Youngs has dismissed the most humiliating Aviva Premiership experience in Leicester's illustrious history as "irrelevant" ahead of their return to Bath for a play-off showdown.

The Tigers will reappear at the Recreation Ground next Saturday, eight months after Youngs and company were demolished 45-0 by a Bath side whose star-studded back division ran riot.

At stake this time is a place in the Premiership final at Twickenham on May 30, a domestic showpiece Leicester have graced on nine previous occasions, but one that Bath last savoured 11 years ago.

"I am really excited at the prospect of going back to the Rec. It is all about getting a result there," said Leicester skipper Youngs, following a 22-14 victory over Northampton that confirmed a third-place Premiership finish behind Saints and Bath.

"We lost 45-0 there in September, and it was not the first time we had been well-beaten there. They are a good side and have earned the right to play at home for a reason.

"We are the underdogs, but it is a one-off game and we have to give everything. A game a few months ago is irrelevant."

Successive victories over Wasps and Northampton suggest that Leicester have reached the play-offs in decent shape, and even though they now have to travel, their Premiership pedigree means that another march on Twickenham cannot be ruled out.

"People have had a go at us this season, but we came third in the table and won 15 matches to Northampton's 16," Youngs added.

"The pressure on this club is high, but no higher than what the players put on themselves. There is expectation, and we are in a good place.

"We are not going there to make up the numbers, and we all want to be part of another winning team. We are an experienced side that boasts players who have played in crucial matches for the Lions, country and club.

"We are away from home and we are really excited about the game. Bath have not been in the play-offs for five years, and games at this stage of the season come down to small margins.

"We well remember what happened at Northampton (in the play-offs) last year when we lost to a try in the 78th minute. It was a game we should have won, and it drives us on."

Leicester, meanwhile, appear likely to put an emphasis on rehabilitation - rather than any severe punishment - for their disgraced England centre Manu Tuilagi.

Tigers star Tuilagi pleaded guilty to assaulting two female police officers when he appeared before magistrates in Leicester three days ago following an incident last month.

He pleaded guilty to one count of assault by beating, one count of criminal damage and two counts of assaulting a police officer. He was fined £5,500 and ordered to pay £705 in costs.

England head coach Stuart Lancaster responded by announcing that Tuilagi will not be considered for selection for the national elite playing squads until January 2016, meaning he will miss the World Cup on home soil later this year.

Leicester rugby director Richard Cockerill has given his support to Lancaster's stance, but also stressed the importance of club and country helping Tuilagi.

Cockerill said: "When I spoke to Manu about this, the first thing he said was 'I was wrong, I will take the punishment'. He has never tried to get away from his responsibility or make excuses for himself.

"He can't behave like that - we know that, he knows that. He has been punished by the courts, he has been punished by England.

"He is a young man growing up in the public eye. Young people do stupid things, and he has done a very stupid thing. Stuart has made his decision, and I support that.

"I am not excusing his behaviour, but we all know Manu is a better bloke than that and I don't want him to be portrayed as this certain individual, because I don't think that is completely fair on him.

"He needs to put that right, but I think we need to support him as well.

"We need to help him, not just cut him adrift and let him read all the press and the whole thing is sat on top of him. We need to help him, and so do England, to make sure he comes through this and is a better person for the experience."

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