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Daily Mirror
Daily Mirror
Alex Spink

Dan Cole: England keep taking our coaches but we are still in title shake-up

Dan Cole says Leicester’s refusal to be knocked off their stride by England ransacking their coaching staff is a warning to anyone ruling out a Tigers title defence.

English rugby’s biggest club play away at Sale Sharks on Sunday for the right to meet either Saracens or Northampton in the Gallagher Premiership final on May 27.

In the 20 years since the play-off system was brought in to reduce the chances of Leicester running away with the league every year, only six of the 40 semi-finals have been won by the away team. Given that and the fact Tigers lost home and away to Sale in the regular season, finishing the campaign 10 points behind Alex Sanderson’s men, they are unfancied this weekend.

“We get used to being written off,” warned Cole, England’s centurion prop. “We’ve been written off a couple of times this season already, especially with what’s gone on off the field.

"This group of players stuck tight together, especially pre-Christmas time, and we put ourselves in position to get to where we are now.”

Cole refers to the upheaval caused by Eddie Jones’ sacking as England team boss and its knock-on effect at Welford Road which, to date, has cost Leicester FIVE senior coaches.

England boss and his No.2: Steve Borthwick and Kevin Sinfield led Leicester to 2021/22 Premiership title (David Rogers/Getty Images)

The Rugby Football Union came calling in December, luring away Tigers boss Steve Borthwick and his No.2 Kevin Sinfield.

Richard Wigglesworth and Aled Waters stepped up and two months later England struck a deal to take them too, albeit at the end of the season.

Tigers weathered both storms but last week scrum coach Tom Harrison became the fifth man to agree to join the Twickenham set, with Borthwick declaring: “Leicester’s scrum is renowned across Europe and Tom has played a leading role in that".

Leicester interim head coach Richard Wigglesworth joins England set-up this summer (Getty Images)

Cole said: “There’s a lot going on, coach movements, player movements. But there’s a pride in this group and how we go about what we do.

“You know you won’t get this group of players again. It’s about doing each other proud and do what we’ve done all season which is to keep stepping forward.”

Sale, 54-12 winners over Newcastle on Saturday, should have too much for Leicester, beaten 20-17 at home to Harlequins before a bumper 25,849 crowd.

Leicester fullback Mike Brown clears his lines against his old team Harlequins on Saturday (Getty Images)

“They play a very physical game, they’re a complete side,” noted Cole. “You have to match them physically, especially away from home. We’re going to have to be at our best.”

Chris Ashton, sent off against Quins for an illegal tackle, is likely to be banned but Wigglesworth remains positive.

“We know there are not too many semi-finals won away from home,” he said. “But we’ll go with the right intentions. Experience counts for a lot. I don’t know what experience they have compared to us.”

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