TOP BAR - Fixtures

Reinforced Leicester Tigers target silverware

For most teams getting to the semi-finals of both Aviva Premiership Rugby and in Europe would mark a successful season.

But as Richard Cockerill explains, Leicester Tigers aren’t most teams.

While Welford Road remains one of the most intimidating venues in the country, only silverware will do for the Tigers this season.

To do so they have recruited with ambition, with Matt Toomua and JP Pietersen adding firepower to what was already a dangerous backline.

Leicester will kick off their Aviva Premiership Rugby campaign, away at Gloucester Rugby on Friday and while starting on the road is always tricky, particularly at Kingsholm, Cockerill has every faith in his team to get off to a good start.

He said: “Everybody will want a good start for obvious reasons. If you want to have any intentions of being in the top four, the top two, you can probably lose five or six games so you don’t want to use those credits up too early in the season.

“Playing away is always more difficult but it gets one out of the way. Gloucester will want a good start at home.

“All of those games have a bit of a cup final feel. We’ll be ready to go. Gloucester have got a lot of talent and we know how dangerous they are so we have to make sure we get our bits right.

“Overall we were pretty happy (with last season) but you want to try to win something. We had two semi-finals and two losses which is disappointing but I’m pleased with how we’re progressing our game.

“We’ve strengthened our squad again, less numbers and more quality, we think, across the board.”

Aaron Mauger arrived at the start of last season to take on the head coach role with Leicester, working alongside director of rugby Cockerill.

And according to Cockerill the key this season will be making sure the team improve their ability to close out matches and manage weather conditions.

He added: “We have to improve our consistency and understand within the playing group and coaching it’s about winning.

“Sometimes on a wet windy day you have to play a style of rugby that wins you the game rather than trying to always outplay sides which maybe at times we were guilty of.

“We have to improve our set-piece and our accuracy but also that little bit of nous on how to win those close games.

“We’ve got to make sure that if you score three tries that you get four to get a bonus point, if you’re losing that you get within seven to get a losing bonus point, and all those points in the end are very important.

“When you look at the difference last year, we lost away at Newcastle and at home to Sale and those points push you into second rather than fourth.

“Matt Toomua and JP Pietersen are probably our marquee signings. There’s no substitute for quality and they will make a big difference along with the likes of Freddie Burns and Owen Williams, Ben Youngs, Manu Tuilagi back fit again.

“Telusa Veainu had a standout season, the same with Peter Betham, so there’s some real quality there.

“We’ve got a very combative and competitive forward pack so we know that on our day, fully-fit, that we’re a match for anyone so we have to make sure we get it right all the time. If you get it wrong there’s every chance you’ll get beaten in this competition.”

The Aviva Premiership Rugby season kicks off this weekend. For a full fixture list click here

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