Aaron Mauger is fast knitting together flair with fight at Leicester Tigers but back-rower Lachlan McCaffrey says that it is his side’s scrapping quality which has them fighting on both fronts this season.
The results are perhaps still not as consistent as Leicester would like this season, though there very few would argue that Richard Cockerill’s men are not a better side than a year ago.
With help from new head coach and former All Black Mauger – already fondly remembered for his three-year
playing stint at Welford Road – Tigers have begun to find their old mojo both domestically and Europe.
The Aviva Premiership Rugby try count is already up by seven, with three rounds still to play, on last term’s regular season effort and that’s without counting their improved Champions Cup fortunes.
Not only did Leicester put memories of 2014/15’s group stage finish to bed, they reached the semi-final of Europe’s premier tournament for the first time in seven years with their 43-14 rout of Stade Francais.
But McCaffrey instead points to the games that have not all gone according to plan, including the 35-30 nerve-jangler against Gloucester Rugby a fortnight ago, as the foundation for all that has gone right this season.
“I’ve only been here for a year, but at Leicester we pride ourselves on being able to win the scraps against other teams,” he said. “The way it’s been this year with no breaks, there’s been some hard games come down to who scraps the hardest and who wants it the most.
“We’ve done that and come out the other side, and know the weather is drying up a bit we are starting to play the type of rugby that is wanted from us.
“The last few months we’ve shown how good our attack can be. We are getting used to the way Aaron Mauger wants us to play, with the players we’ve got in our back-line.
“Defensively we haven’t been up to that at times in the last two months but I thought we were better against Stade, and as long with 40 points on them it was a much more complete performance.
“We have got to take each opportunity as it comes but we know that a squad we hold high standards – and we haven’t met those standards at some points this season. And in April and May, you don’t get any second chances if you make those mistakes.”
It is a far cry from McCaffrey’s travails this time last year, as he was part of a London Welsh side that were relegated with just one point to their name.
But his efforts did not escape the attention of Leicester, and he has since become a vital cog in the Tigers machine – participating in 16 Aviva Premiership Rugby games already.
“It was a tough year getting beaten up by a lot of sides in the Premiership, both physically and mentally,” admitted the Australian.
“And in the northern hemisphere I had to get used to the long winter, the pitches that come with it and the type of physical players you get here. Under Cockers and Aaron Mauger, I’ve improved in that regard this year.
“I definitely don’t take the jersey for granted each week I’m grateful to have played with so many good players in the side. Every week, I’m trying to prove to the coaches and fans that I belong.”
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