Marcos Ayerza insists there would be no better way for Leicester Tigers to answer their critics for the season than by securing their place in the Aviva Premiership Rugby Final and going all the way to lift the trophy.
The Tigers endured a difficult start to the campaign, suffering three defeats in their opening five games – including a record 45-0 loss at the Rec, the ground they will visit in Saturday’s semi-final clash with Bath Rugby.
But a run of eight wins from their last nine Aviva Premiership Rugby matches saw Richard Cockerill’s men secure their 11th consecutive top-four finish, with Ayerza playing a crucial role in the 22-14 success over Northampton Saints on the final day.
And the Argentinian loosehead, who has made 14 league appearances this season, admits there will be an added incentive when they travel to the scene of their lowest Aviva Premiership Rugby ebb.
“It has hasn’t always been an easy season for us as a club with quite a few injuries and some tough results, but to finish third and make it all the way to the semi-finals was huge,” Ayerza said.
“We actually only won one game less than Northampton and Bath above us, so hopefully we can continue our recent momentum to take to the Rec.
“I think after some questions were asked about the players and the coaches, to make it all the way this year would be a massive thing for us to do.
“It feels like some people have been waiting for us to fail, so it would be nice for the supporters and everyone at Leicester to answer those questions.
“Obviously we are very happy to have made it through and set up another big match, but we know we have not done anything yet.”
If the Tigers are to make their tenth final in 11 years, they will have to be at their best to beat a side containing four members of the BT Sport Dream Team – including three of the star-studded backline – announced at Wednesday’s Aviva Premiership Rugby awards.
But while he is quick to acknowledge the threats of George Ford, Jonathan Joseph et al, Ayerza insists that the opposing packs will have a lot to say in proceedings.
“It was great for us to put in a solid forward display at the weekend, and we know we’ll have to do the same at Bath if we are to come away with a result,” he added.
“We pride ourselves on the set-piece, and we know how well the forwards go can say a lot for the team.
“The front five battle will be huge – I think the scrums and set-pieces on Saturday are going to be very important in deciding the outcome.
“We’ll have to see how it goes, but I think it will be a cracking game.”
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