Leicester Tigers Director of Rugby Dean Richards has named his team to face Leeds Tykes in Sunday's Zurich Premiership clash at Headingley (kick-off 2.30pm), and is refusing to be downhearted following a run of two consecutive defeats.
Richards' men – depleted by eight world cup call-ups from their forwards – have fallen to consecutive losses to Sale Sharks and most recently Gloucester, but he is going into this weekend's Yorkshire trip with a positive mindset, saying: "We're still quite buoyant."
Despite his side's disappointing performance at Kingsholm last weekend, Richards said of their season thus far: "We're going into it with nothing to lose, and as such we're trying to do things in the games. But we're playing an inexperienced side, and while that sometimes works, occasionally it doesn't.
"Inexperience is one thing, but we've also lacked nous at times, having an appreciation of what to do in a game, going through with drills. We're a bit guilty of not actually making the right decisions or not trying to go through with things, but we're not finger-pointing – the players are their own worst critics."
Tigers face a Leeds team placed just one spot below themselves at ninth in the Zurich Premiership, tied on ten points, and Richards said of Sunday's assignment: "I'm still of the opinion that we have nothing to lose.
"When sides play against Leicester there seems to be more intensity from them than when they come up against others.
"People aren't expecting anything from us because with the world cup and injuries we have about 13 or 14 people away. We just have to play rugby."
Of a Leeds side who ran in six tries during their last match – a 41-31 home win over Saracens – Richards said: "They've been a bit up and down, but they were good in their last game. They've always scored tries and been a difficult side."
The Tykes will welcome back veteran Mike Shelley for the match after injury, and the England A prop is a man for whom Richards has the utmost respect.
"He's a key player for them – an insipirational leader," he said. "They stayed up last season when a lot of people thought they might not, and he was instrumental in that. He's a nice guy and he leads from the front.
"But Leeds are a good side generally anyway. They're very abrasive and have a good line out. They could cause problems, and in Dan Scarborough at wing or fullback they have one of the best finishers in the game."
Leicester Tigers team to face Leeds Tykes:
1 Graham Rowntree2 George Chuter3 Ricky Nebbett4 James Hamilton5 Louis Deacon6 Brett Deacon7 Josh Kronfeld ©8 Will Johnson9 Austin Healey10 Sam Vesty11 John Holtby12 Daryl Gibson13 Leon Lloyd14 Ollie Smith15 Tim Stimpson
16 Jim Richards17 Darren Morris18 Tom Ryder19 Henry Tuilagi20 Luke Myring21 Harry Ellis22 Will Skinner