You know the mood must be giddy at Leicester when the record books are being consulted. As pointed out by the account @HistoryTigers on Twitter, victory over Wasps next weekend would see Leicester equal their best-ever start to a season with 16 wins, set in 1983-84, and equal the record for the Premiership’s best-ever start to a season of 12 wins achieved by Newcastle Falcons in 1997-98.
Newcastle, funnily enough, were the latest side to be find themselves underneath the Leicester steamroller, hammered 31-0 on Sunday as the heavens opened over Mattioli Woods Welford Road to allow this improving, nasty Leicester pack of forwards and their esteemed half-backs to go to work.
“As soon as it started raining in the first minute of the game I thought ‘here we go’, because in Ben Youngs and George Ford they’ve got the best controlling half-backs in the league,” Dean Richards, a favourite of son of Leicester and now Newcastle’s director of rugby, told his club’s website.
Given Richards’ past life overseeing trophy-winning Leicester sides, his thoughts on their current pomp were worth listening to.
“They don’t play in their own half, and everything they do is about putting you under pressure. It’s a typically Eddie Jones, Brendan Venter and South African style of rugby, and it’s really successful if you’ve got quality outside.
“They have a very effective brand of rugby which works for them. It’s not everyone’s cup of tea, but if they keep on winning I can’t imagine they or their fans will be too bothered about that.”
The Eddie Jones reference is interesting, given that Leicester head coach Steve Borthwick is now being touted as the next England head coach when Jones departs after the 2023 Rugby World Cup. Borthwick worked alongside Jones for eight years with Japan and England, was part of the coaching staff who lost to South Africa in the last World Cup final, and is no longer part of the current England coaching group who with Marcus Smith now installed at fly-half are looking to open things up a bit.
That ‘South African style’ Richards is referring to essentially means the Springbok blueprint under Rassie Erasmus; kick often, win the aerial battle, force turnovers, dominate territory and the set-piece, with control of the breakdown thrown in too for good measure. The physical, bullying elements of that plan all feel very traditional Leicester anyway.
Well, Leicester ticked all the boxes on Sunday with 64 per cent territory, out-kicking Newcastle from hand 49 times to 39, and winning the turnover battle conceding 15 to Newcastle’s 19. They also had 22 lineouts, winning 20 of them.