By Jordan Crane’s admission it has been an up-and-down year at Welford Road, but the No.8 is adamant Leicester Tigers have learnt from everything that has been thrown at them.
With one of Aviva Premiership Rugby’s most extensive injury lists throughout the calendar year and absent from the Twickenham final for the first time since 2004, Richard Cockerill’s troops have endured some tough times.
However, after ending 2014 with a dramatic victory at Sale Sharks – reminiscent of the Tigers of old in their refusal to accept defeat – there is cause for optimism.
Despite a slow start to the campaign, Leicester head into the New Year just one spot and two points from the top four and Crane believes an assault on the Aviva Premiership Rugby leaders can now begin to take shape.
“It has been tough,” he said. “It is the first year in ten that we haven’t been in the final, which was a tough one to take. But all the tests we have had this year, we have come through it OK.
“We have had a few stumbling blocks over the year but we are only halfway through the season. If we can start getting a few more guys back it is going to be massive for us for the run-in. If we can get Manu (Tuilagi) back and Logovi’i Mulipola, it is going to make our squad even stronger.
“We just need to improve our form in the New Year and hopefully we will be at the Premiership final again.”
Victory at Sale’s AJ Bell Stadium last weekend was the perfect antidote for a frustrating defeat at Northampton Saints – the first time the two teams had met since Leicester were beaten in last season’s play-off semi-final.
The visitors found themselves 15 points behind shortly after the break and only a last-gasp Julian Salvi try – converted by Owen Williams – saw them over the line in the end.
And Crane is adamant that result was necessary to send them into 2015 well placed, both in the league table and in their own minds.
He added: “It was good to get the win and the five points. Obviously Sale have been on a good run so it was always going to be a tough place to go.
“We probably left ourselves a little too much to do but the way we attacked was probably the best we have all year. It is just credit to the whole squad and the way we stuck at it.
“If we had lost we would have been pretty much way outside the top four but now we are right back in it. It is big in terms of our league standing, but also from a confidence point of view.”
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