Monday 22 January 2018

Leicester pride was dented, it was embarrassing - Slater

Ed Slater Picture: Sportsfile
Ed Slater Picture: Sportsfile

Mick Cleary

There is far more at stake for Leicester tomorrow than mere points in Pool One of the Champions' Cup, with their chances of qualification as unlikely as Boris Johnson winning Diplomat of the Year.

Munster humiliated one of England's finest at Thomond Park last weekend, winning 38-0, so the return leg has become an exercise in redemption and credibility. Leicester's sporting manhood has been called into question and an urgent response is needed.

This is an unusual but not unique state of affairs for the club. In 2003, Leicester suffered horribly at the hands of an Irish province, losing 33-0 against Ulster at Ravenhill, a shock of seismic proportions given that it came only 18 months after Leicester had won the second of their back-to-back European titles.

Pedigree

That pedigree was, in fact, paraded seven days after the Belfast debacle as the Tigers triumphed 49-7. That sort of immediate revival would be a near miraculous about-turn this weekend with Munster (seven wins in a row) surging ever-onwards since the tragic jolt to their sensibilities following the death of coach Anthony Foley, and with Leicester strapped by injury issues across their back-line.

But there is a sense of elemental fury at their own inadequacies at Thomond and a consequent need to put things right. Director of rugby Richard Cockerill has spoken of the need to "put a stake in the ground", and declare Welford Road a no-go zone for any such lily-livered play again. Former captain, lock Ed Slater, agrees. "Our pride has been dented and much as we might say that that was not a reflection of us, we have got to go out and show it," Slater said. "It was embarrassing. Munster beat us up physically and that is not acceptable. We got beaten 100 per cent across the park for 80 minutes.

"There wasn't even anger afterwards because you only get angry about something if you have let it slip away when you are within three or five points on the scoreboard. That was never the case. No, we were shocked. It's a real kick up the backside for us. We need to restore pride and show to ourselves, as well as to others, that we are better than that."

Leicester have not had a bankrupt season. They lie fourth in the Premiership and although they had a similarly fearful setback on the opening night of this season's Champions Cup, chasing shadows as they went down 42-13 to Glasgow Warriors at Scotstoun, they hit back immediately to beat Top 14 champions and last year's European finalists, Racing 92, 27-17 at Welford Road.

There was an equally bleak and foreboding inquest after that Scotstoun reverse, with Cockerill fielding questions about the viability of his future and the need for a club of Leicester's standing to be among the market-leaders.

Faithful

Slater accepts that the Welford Road faithful deserve better. "Of course they do and that is what we all want," said Slater, who recognises, though, that a repeat of the Ulster comeback 13 years ago will be improbable.

"I didn't know about that game until I saw a tweet from [Leicester great] Neil Back. Look, it won't be easy to replicate that although we will be doing our damnedest.

"The talk in Munster is that the job as only half done. We did the double over them last season and that is their target. Fair enough. But we know that if we are at 100 per cent across the board, we can beat anyone. That is the goal.

"In some ways, it is a bit easier knowing that qualification might be beyond us, or that it will take three bonus-point wins and all that, because it means we only have to focus on performance. This is about us, about being emotionally on the case, yes, but also being much smarter tactically.

"We've being going pretty well in the Premiership with three wins on the bounce so it is not all bad. But we do need to front up and show what Leicester are all about." (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Telegraph.co.uk

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