Steve Borthwick has pledged Leicester Tigers will “adapt and overcome” after losing England centre Manu Tuilagi to Sale Sharks.
British and Irish Lions star Tuilagi headed a cast list of six senior players to leave Leicester after rejecting 25 per cent wage cuts, due to the coronavirus and salary cap reductions.
Tuilagi has since signed for Sale until the end of the 2020/21 season, leaving the club he joined as a teenager for one of Leicester’s direct rivals.
Big-name signings like Fiji wing Nemani Nadolo are already on board as the Tigers look to evolve under new head coach Borthwick, with stars like Matias Moroni, Kobus Van Wyk and Kini Murimurivalu also recruited.
Borthwick left the England set-up to join Leicester, and insisted the Tigers can cope with Tuilagi’s loss in pushing towards a new era.
“Circumstances do change, circumstances, things you’ve made plans for, do change,” said Borthwick.
“No one could have predicted these last few months, you go back, even go back to when I was coaching England during the Six Nations, and no one could possibly anticipate at the start of the Six Nations that we wouldn’t be able to finish the tournament, with what’s happened.
“So I think with any situation you find yourself, you adapt, you find a way to adapt; find a way to adapt and overcome.
“We’ve made some signings, the players we have here are working exceptionally hard to improve themselves, to help improve this team and take this team forward. And that’s what we’ll continue to do.”
Borthwick’s Leicester switch was confirmed in April, before he started work at Welford Road on July 1.
The former England captain and abrasive Saracens lock has already vowed to steer Leicester back to the top, with the Tigers currently languishing in 11th place in the suspended Premiership’s table.
When quizzed on how quickly Leicester can once again be challenging for silverware though, the 40-year-old insisted he will not yet be setting any time limits on that rebuilding job.
“Right now we’re focusing on the here and now and what we can do in this situation,” said Borthwick.
“We’ve made a start on and we’re trying to put in place what we want to do. We know we’ve got some changes to the squad that have happened, and we’ve got some new additions that are going to be joining the squad in due course.
📸— Leicester Tigers (@LeicesterTigers) July 28, 2020
New Kit looking just as 🔥 today as it did on Day 1⃣ pic.twitter.com/eHSr7BI1Py
“And as we go we’ll be building how we build this team going forward. In terms of looking ahead and making goals for that as we go, I’m not going to sit here and do that.
“What I’m going to do is talk about the way we’re going to train, the way we’re going to prepare ourselves. And if we continue to do that we’ll make progress as a team.
“We should be very clear on our identity on how we play, but I think most importantly, this is what has been said to me many, many times by the supporters I’ve spoken to here, they want a team that works exceptionally hard to work together for this club.
“They want to see effort, that togetherness of the team on the field. I think people are realistic about where this club is right now, they are realistic about the amount of work we’ve got to do, and they are realistic about the time it’s going to take.
“But what they want, and what I want, is a team that will work exceptionally hard, have a togetherness on the field, and ensure that we are fighting for everything we possibly can.”