England’s loss is proving to be Leicester Tigers’ gain – and skipper Ed Slater is determined to keep stating his international case against Newcastle Falcons in the Aviva Premiership on Sunday.
Slater skippered Leicester for the first time last weekend in a 20-15 win over London Irish – tries from Ben Youngs, Lugovi’i Mulipola and Niki Goneva doing the damage.
It was a third straight win for the Tigers – albeit another when they were not at their most convincing – and crucially, it moved them above Harlequins and into the top four.
Second row Slater was at his imperious best, having been training with the England squad but missing out on the matchday 23 with Courtney Lawes, Joe Launchbury and Dave Attwood preferred.
The Aviva Premiership is therefore Slater’s priority and this Sunday they face a Newcastle side that have lost their last nine league matches.
Leicester are also boosted by the return of Manu Tuilagi who makes his first appearance since picking up a chest injury in September, as fate would have it, against the Falcons.
Slater is only too aware however, that a trip to Kingston Park brings its own challenges, claiming that as defending Aviva Premiership champions, the Tigers are the side everyone wants to beat.
“First and foremost we need to concentrate on ourselves, we don’t want to give Newcastle any confidence to get into the game,” he said.
“We have looked at them this week, but it’s about us. We know most weeks sides raise their game against us – that’s not me being arrogant, everyone wants to beat Leicester.
“Obviously the pressure is on every week in that sense, but we’ve come in for a bit of criticism of late for the way we performed against Worcester and Gloucester, so the win against Irish was big and we want to follow that up.”
Newcastle meanwhile, are on an unwanted losing streak but the recent signs have been good – last time out they battled back at home to league leaders Northampton Saints to earn themselves a losing bonus point, thanks to Noah Cato’s try and Joel Hodgson’s conversion.
That came a week after another losing bonus point – this time away to Harlequins.
Cross-code convert Lee Smith will make his debut for the club while full-back Alex Tait will line up against older brother Matthew and flanker Mark Wilson believes the Falcons can take heart from their recent performances.
“We’ve played three of the best teams in recent weeks and taken points away from them, so that is a positive,” he added.
“Leicester are another good side, they have a big pack and we are going to have to match that physicality in every position.
“We need to make sure that on the weekend we are focused from the very first minute until the last – we can’t afford another bad start.”
(Kingston Park, 2pm)
Referee: Greg Garner (62nd Premiership game).
Assistant Referees: Andy Watson & Gareth Copsey. TMO: Graham Hughes.
Live on BT Sport