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Richard Cockerill believes more quality can help Leicester advance

Leicester boss Richard Cockerill believes the Tigers have more quality "across the board" as they look to improve on last season's semi-final appearances in domestic and European competitions.

The Tigers launch their Aviva Premiership campaign at Gloucester on Friday, where a powerful Leicester line-up that includes England centre Manu Tuilagi and World Cup-winning South Africa international JP Pietersen, will look to put down an immediate marker.

"We have to improve our consistency and understand within the playing group and coaching it's about winning," rugby director Cockerill said.

"Sometimes, on a wet and windy day, you have to play a style of rugby that wins you the game rather than trying to always out-play sides, which maybe at times we were guilty of.

"We have to improve our set-piece and our accuracy, but also that little bit of nous on how to win those close games.

"Overall, we were pretty happy (with last season), but you want to try to win something. We had two semi-finals and two losses, which is disappointing, but I am pleased with how we're progressing our game.

"We have strengthened our squad again - less numbers and more quality, we think, across the board."

Gloucester finished 17 points and four places behind Leicester last term, showing only a marginal improvement on the previous campaign, so consistency will be high on the agenda at Kingsholm.

"We know we've been very close," rugby director David Humphreys said. "I think in six of the 10 Premiership games that we lost, we were leading after 70 minutes.

"But that's the nature of this league. It is so competitive, and in any match there can be very little between the two teams, so you always have to perform at your very best.

"Unfortunately for us, we didn't do that, or have that level of consistency that the very good teams have.

"But we feel like we've made some good improvements over the last few months after a disappointing ending to last season's league campaign, so we are looking forward to it.

"We are all of the view that we've underachieved over the last couple of seasons in Premiership rugby, so this is a big year for us."

Newcastle and Sale Sharks are also in action on the Premiership's opening night, with Sale parading six newcomers - including half-backs AJ MacGinty and Mike Phillips - at Kingston Park.

The Falcons, meanwhile, hand a debut to former Leicester back Vereniki Goneva, and Newcastle rugby director Dean Richards said: "Overall, within the squad, we have retained our core and everyone is working well together.

"Confidence is high - we have a much better squad than last year, and everyone is vying for selection. There is competition all over the place, and we are chomping at the bit to get into the games.

"Sale beat us up here in the final game of last season, which really disappointed us.

"We have a bit of a point to prove because we felt we could, and should, have won that game.

"You can say Sale have lost people like Tommy Taylor and Danny Cipriani, but they have brought in good players like Rob Webber and AJ MacGinty.

"We know they are a strong side, they will come to play rugby and to take us on physically. We have a lot of respect for what they can offer, but at the same time the belief in our own ability to challenge them."


From Belfast Telegraph