Toby Flood reveals he can’t bear to watch struggling Leicester Tigers
‘I turned the TV off’: Former Leicester captain Toby Flood reveals he can’t bear to watch struggling Tigers ahead of Premiership relegation showdown with his Newcastle Falcons side
- Leicester Tigers have lost 17 of their 20 matches in all competitions this season
- They have the most expensive back-line in the British Isles but have been poor
- Should they lose to Newcastle Falcons this weekend they could slip to last place
- Former captain Toby Flood admitted he can’t bear to watch the Tigers’ struggles
Too big to fail? That was the question being asked before the giants of Wall Street crashed in 2008 but now the focus is on Welford Road.
By the end of the weekend, Leicester could be bottom of the Premiership. They have lost 17 from 20 in all competitions and, in Friday’s relegation clash at Kingston Park, Newcastle are plotting to make it 18 from 21.
The permutations are simple: a clear bonus-point defeat, coupled with a Worcester victory over Sale, will leave the Tigers in last place.
Toby Flood can’t bear to watch his former side Leicester Tigers struggle in the Premiership
Big trees fall hard and Friday night’s match is being billed as the biggest in Leicester’s history.
The club boast the most expensive back-line in the British Isles yet they have been faced with a leaky defence, eroding loyalty and erratic board decisions.
Things are so bad that Toby Flood can’t bear to watch. He was captain when Leicester last won the league in 2013, but on Friday night he will be wearing the No 10 jersey for Newcastle.
‘I turned the TV off when they lost to Northampton last month,’ said Flood. ‘I hadn’t watched rugby in ages, so I thought I’d have a look and I turned it off after 30 minutes and walked the dog.
‘Of course I find it hard. The reality is I’ve still got a lot of friends there but you have to park that now because you’ve got a different-coloured kit on. You’ve got to go out there and beat them. The reality is that we have our own fight to fight.’
Despite a strong squad they have lost 17 of their 20 matches this season in all competitions
Fingers have been pointed towards Leicester’s recruitment. In their quest to assemble a hotshot back line, they have neglected their forward pack and lost the physical edge that once intimidated opponents.
Confidence has sunk and Flood, under the coaching of fellow ex-Tiger Dean Richards, is planning to attack the heart of their DNA.
‘Win the collisions against Leicester and notoriously they don’t like that,’ said Flood. ‘They struggle with that. They’ll be coming here and they’ll be nervous. If we start well, then maybe their self-doubt creeps in.
‘If you’re on the edge physically, they’re a team conceding 30 points a game and we want to make sure we exploit those frailties. There’s no doubt that the first 20 minutes will be huge.
‘They were always physically disgusting to play against. Look at players that have gone before – Garforth, Rowntree, the Deacon brothers. Those were guys who were always going to give that intimidation factor and to play behind them was always quite nice.
‘You can’t just beat up a team in professional rugby now because you’ll be sat on the sofa the next week having received a red card the week before. If they haven’t got away from that culture, maybe that’s part of the reason they are struggling.’
Newcastle hope to welcome back Mark Wilson to a dynamic back-row – although the England flanker will face a late fitness test this afternoon.
Next up for the strugglers are Flood’s Newcastle Falcons in Premiership relegation showdown
Out wide, they will set out to punish Leicester’s defensive frailties with the attacking threat of Sinoti Sinoti and Vereniki Goneva.
Leicester are missing skipper Tom Youngs, who is banned following a red card during last week’s thrashing by Exeter. Their glory days have become a distant memory.
That 2013 final marked the end of Geordan Murphy’s playing career. Now he is Leicester’s head coach – their fourth in three seasons – and his challenge is to adapt their big-game experience to a relegation fight.
‘I don’t know if I’m an idiot or just a really positive person but I try and take the positives out of everything,’ said Murphy.
‘I have been at this club a long time and there have been pressurised games: trying to get into top four, top six, semi-finals, finals. This is kind of the same. Everyone wants to play in big games, we associate that with big European finals but sometimes they’re Newcastle 10th v 12th. That’s where we are at.’
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