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All you need to know about Leicester Tigers ahead of Ulster's Challenge Cup semi-final


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Steve Borthwick

Steve Borthwick

�INPHO/Laszlo Geczo

Dan Cole

Dan Cole

Getty Images

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Steve Borthwick

Rebuilds are tricky things to navigate.

Patience is required for them to be effective and not just result in further attempts at reconstruction for the sake of it.

And then when exactly is the process no longer a rebuild?

Regardless of exactly where Leicester Tigers reckon they are in terms of their latest attempt to reinvent themselves as something close to what they once were - a powerhouse club renowned for their uncompromising pursuit of success - their route forward is naturally strewn with perilous obstacles.

Their two most recent games have shown that much still needs to be done if the Tigers are to ever dine at the Premiership's top table again.

That Steve Borthwick has improved things since taking full command following long-serving club legend Geordan Murphy's sudden departure last autumn is not up for debate, but those losses against Bath and Northampton Saints have thrown doubts on the notion that the Welford Road side are hitting their stride again.

At Bath, they self-destructed, and then last weekend the Tigers were unable to adequately impose themselves when at home to a Saints side who were simply more uncompromising and determined to prevail in the midlands derby.

The feeling of having stalled has been tricky to camouflage for the team who sit eighth in the Premiership and are now chasing a top six finish.

Yet Borthwick's rebuild could acquire some valuable propulsion should Tigers find their way to the Challenge Cup final.

This offers them immediate redemption from those two hurtful Premiership defeats and, regardless of the issues most recently thrown up, the Tigers will feel that the Borthwick game-plan, if properly implemented, can get them there.

There are few frills to his approach. Nemani Nadolo came off the bench against Saints and caused mayhem through his notable physicality, which resulted in two tries last weekend.

The Tigers will be looking to launch the veteran whenever possible with close-in bursts in midfield, or near the line, possibly more likely than the Fijian waiting for the ball on his wing.

George Ford will game-manage along with recalled veteran Richard Wigglesworth - Ben Youngs is benched - and, though Freddie Steward is a strong-running full-back, the home team will be looking to their forwards to dictate so much of their plan.

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In particular, the Tigers will want Ellis Genge, along with the gnarled Tom Youngs and Dan Cole, to do a job on Ulster's scrum, while, in pure dynamic physicality, they bring Jasper Wiese and Hanro Liebenberg, who possess so much ball-carrying destructiveness. Their bench isn't too bad either and, as well as Ben Youngs, contains the powerful Cyle Brink and hard-running Kini Murimurivalu.

If Leicester can dominate Ulster up front - the Tigers' lineout maul is also a formidable weapon - and keep their less than assured discipline from heading south, then a shot at silverware will be theirs.

And that wouldn't be a bad thing for Borthwick's rebuild.


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