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Tigers out to atone Bath mauling

Freddie Burns is fired up and ready to help Leicester's bid to exorcise memories of arguably the most humiliating day in their illustrious 135-year history.

Burns and his Tigers team-mates will be back alongside the River Avon on Saturday, just eight months after Leicester were swept aside by wave after wave of attacking brilliance from Bath.

One of this season's most one-sided Aviva Premiership encounters ended with Leicester suffering a 45-0 defeat, being reduced to 14 men late in the game after scrum-half David Mele was sent off and Burns' opposite number George Ford delivered a fly-half masterclass.

"It was quite possibly the worst day I've ever had on a rugby pitch," Burns said.

"I've never had a game like that where we were as bad as they were brilliant, really.

"But we have come a long way since then, and the boys are really confident.

"We've got to get down there and believe in ourselves. We are excited at the chance to turn around that performance."

Since that dismal September afternoon, Leicester have lost just five Premiership games from 19 starts, ending the regular season in third spot after posting only one less win than the two teams above them - Bath and Northampton.

The Tigers have secured play-off status for an 11th successive campaign and while they will encounter a team that last reached the Premiership final in 2004, Burns and company know Bath's outstanding home form makes them fearsome opponents.

Leicester, though, thrive on silencing the critics, and their detractors have already started flicking cookery book pages for humble pie recipes.

"We've been rubbish all year, apparently," Burns added.

"Alright, we haven't played champagne rugby, but we finished third and we're in the semi-final, albeit going away to somewhere like Bath.

"We would have liked to have been at home and we would have liked to have played champagne rugby all year, but we haven't, yet we are still in it. Now, it's knockout rugby, so anything can happen."

Asked if the Tigers could use suggestions of the Premiership power base shifting from them to clubs like Bath as motivation this weekend, Burns said: "Yes, a little bit.

"All year, there has been a lot of stuff flying around, but we are a really tight-knit group.

"We've won one less game than the two teams above us. We are winning games, which is all that counts."

Burns, 25, joined Leicester last summer following a seven-year stint at Gloucester. He toured New Zealand with England in 2014, taking his total of Test appearances to five, but he missed out on a place in head coach Stuart Lancaster's 50-man World Cup training squad which was announced earlier this week.

While Lancaster looks to the likes of Ford, Owen Farrell, Danny Cipriani and Stephen Myler as his fly-halves, Burns finds himself on the outside looking in, but there can be little doubt that he has recaptured some of his best form.

"I feel that I am now playing well again," he added. "I am getting complimented for the foundations of my game.

"In the past, I've been complimented for doing a little bit of brilliance here and there, but people would say my game management and goal-kicking wouldn't be as good as it could be.

"But I feel like my game management and my general kicking game and goal-kicking has improved.

"I have played against George a handful of times, and he is a quality player, there is no doubt about that.

"Of course there is frustration, but the only person I can be frustrated with is myself in that I probably let my form slip during my last spell at Gloucester and it took me a while to get right and get into the run of things at Leicester.

"So there is a bit of frustration for myself, but look at the way George has played this year. He thoroughly deserves that spot in the England team.

"He is playing exceptionally well."


From Belfast Telegraph