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Leicester captain Ellis Genge has hailed Steve Borthwick’s “incredible” work behind the Tigers reclaiming a place at the top table of English rugby.
Nine years after they last won the title, Leicester are kings of the domestic game once more.
It has taken Borthwick – the red-hot favourite as England boss Eddie Jones’ eventual successor – just two seasons to transform the club since he took over as head coach.
🎦 𝐏𝐎𝐒𝐓-𝐌𝐀𝐓𝐂𝐇 𝐂𝐇𝐀𝐓
🗣 "𝘛𝘩𝘢𝘯𝘬 𝘺𝘰𝘶 𝘵𝘰 𝘵𝘩𝘦 𝘴𝘶𝘱𝘱𝘰𝘳𝘵𝘦𝘳𝘴, 𝘵𝘩𝘦𝘺'𝘷𝘦 𝘣𝘦𝘦𝘯 𝘣𝘳𝘪𝘭𝘭𝘪𝘢𝘯𝘵 𝘵𝘰 𝘵𝘩𝘪𝘴 𝘵𝘦𝘢𝘮"
Steve Borthwick reacts to Premiership title win at Twickenham. pic.twitter.com/5Hc8tclfjA
— Leicester Tigers (@LeicesterTigers) June 18, 2022
When he arrived in the east midlands, Leicester were almost down and out, finding himself having to pick up a club only spared relegation in 2019 because Saracens were demoted because of their repeated salary cap breaches.
Genge, who will join his home-town club Bristol next season, has accompanied Borthwick every step of the way, culminating in a stirring 15-12 victory over Gallagher Premiership final opponents Saracens at Twickenham.
“Steve has come in and he has reinstalled that belief, that work ethic,” Genge said.
“It had probably got a bit complacent, to be honest, in 2018, and we got what we deserved.
“But you reap the reward if you put the work in, and that is what we have done. What you have seen is a product of all the hard work.
“Steve has been incredible. He hates hearing it, so I don’t really enjoy saying it!
“He gets really awkward – it’s quite funny, actually – but he is a class operator. You don’t come in and turn a team from sixth last season to winning it the year after.
“I have loved every minute. We have worked relentlessly behind the scenes.
WHAT. AN. ENDING.
— Premiership Rugby (@premrugby) June 18, 2022
“Wind, rain, shine, we’ve been out there on the paddock doing the hard work, and it is just class to see the rewards. It has not sunk in yet.”
Genge vividly remembers the tough times at Leicester, which are underlined by them winning just 13 of 44 league games across the 2018 and 2019 seasons.
“I kind of understood it when they (Leicester supporters) were throwing their season tickets at us when we were 11th,” he added.
“They have been incredible in my time here, and made me feel at home. This (title) is what they deserve. They are die-hard fans, and this is what you get when you stick by a team.
“We lost to Exeter the first game of the (2018-19) season, 40-6, and then we got drilled at home two or three times. It was bleak.
“I obviously understand the emotions. I don’t want to dig up bad memories too much, but it is class to see the resurgence.
“Steve always speaks about it. Success doesn’t go like a big wave all the way up. I’ve seen the highs and the lows.
“I don’t think there is ever a magic potion. We thought we were working hard, but we weren’t.
“Steve and Aled Walters (Leicester’s head of physical performance) came in, and we had a vile pre-season. No-one had worked that hard for years – we hadn’t seen what graft was.
“Steve and Aled don’t like going on about it, but I am not afraid to tell you we have worked relentlessly to get to where we are.
“We know we are fit, we graft, and no-one is going to drop off. We came away with the trophy.”