Leicester Tigers are searching for a perfect mix of attack and defence, and back-rower Lachlan McCaffrey believes his side have made great strides since the beginning of the Aviva Premiership Rugby campaign.
While it’s certainly true that Aaron Mauger’s appointment as head coach at the start of last season gave Tigers an attacking spark, the one piece of the puzzle missing has been a watertight defence.
Leicester have conceded 163 points through seven games –the worst record of any other side bar bottom two Worcester Warriors and Bristol Rugby – yet still find themselves perched in fourth place.
Therefore, should they nail down their defensive duties, Tigers are likely to be a fiendishly tough team to stop and McCaffrey is confident that will prove the case.
“I personally love our style of play and getting that balance with our defence is the most important part of our game,” he said.
“No matter how good our attack is, if we don’t put in a performance defensively we won’t get where we want to be.
“We work really hard on our defence in training so it’s not an attitude problem, but to be honest our system was not really working as we were leaking points – now I think we are in a position to improve.
“We have slowly got better throughout the season, towards the end of the last block we played especially.
“Our defence has been applied better and we’ve done a lot of work to make sure we get it right.”
Leicester welcome a traditionally free-flowing Harlequins to Welford Road on Sunday, with both clubs set to be tested by the absence of some of their internationals.
— Leicester Tigers (@LeicesterTigers) November 18, 2016
Tigers proved they have strength in depth in the Anglo-Welsh Cup by following up a hard-fought win away to Bath Rugby with a 42-3 triumph over Newport Gwent Dragons.
And McCaffrey believes if any squad can cope with a few missing players, it is Leicester.
“We have a really strong squad and it’s important to improve as you never know whether you’ll be picked or not,” added the 26-year-old. “That’s the mentality throughout the year – trying to get into the coaches’ top two for each position.
“There’s so much competition in every position and it forces the older guys to dig in – it was great to see guys like Harry Thacker and Freddie Burns play really well in the last couple of weeks as they are guys you can count onto start in any game.
“We’re missing one or two England boys at the moment so we all have to step up.”