By Neale Harvey
Leicester are in with a puncher’s chance of the Premiership title after transforming their season with early morning boxing sessions, says skipper Tom Youngs.
From looking out for the count before the arrival of forwards coach Mark Bakewell in February, Tigers are in play-off contention and aiming to land a knock-out blow.
Youngs told The Rugby Paper: “Mark’s come in and done a great job by bringing a lot of clarity to our forward operation. He hasn’t changed everything but with his experience he’s had a look at us and just tweaked a few little things here and there.
“He’s created a really good pack culture in a short space of time and he’s done things like having us in boxing at 6.30 on a Monday morning. We’ll do six or seven rounds with a minute’s rest in between, changing our partners along the way.
“It’s all body shots, no head shots, but we go hard at it and it’s pretty full-on. It’s certainly helped develop the pack culture you need and, along with guys like Ellis Genge coming back from injury, you’ve seen the results over recent weeks.
“I don’t think anyone will be going into pro boxing but we’re trying to make our own history as a Leicester pack and there’s a lot more to come.”
Since recovering last month from the shoulder injury in December that forced him to miss the Six Nations, Genge has been a pugilistic presence in Leicester’s front row and looks certain to be on England’s summer tour of South Africa.
Youngs said: “Ellis is full of energy and he’s been desperate to get back in the fold. He’s a young guy who’s just had his first experience of a long-term injury and it’s been frustrating for him, but he’s bigger, stronger and fighting fit again.
“He’s a bit of a hybrid between Mako Vunipola and Joe Marler with having that ball-carrying ability and being able to scrummage well. He’s working hard on his detail around the park and Leicester’s been a good fit for him.
“We’re trying to mould him without taking that raw ability out of his game and you’d have to think he will go to South Africa with England now. You’ve got to be interested in a guy like that who brings such physicality and edge to a game.”
Youngs, meanwhile, continues to excel despite the off-field pressures posed by dealing with his wife’s ongoing battle against cancer. He explained: “Tiffany’s doing well and she’s coming to games, which is incredibly inspirational.
“It’s hard, it takes a lot out of you and it’s an emotional rollercoaster, but I’ve tried to never allow my standards to drop.”
Youngs is hell-bent on steering Leicester to a ‘miracle’ first Premiership title since 2013, adding: “From being out of Europe and ninth in the Premiership in January, to claw it back is one of the best achievements I’ve seen.
“No one wants the stigma of being the first Tigers side since 2004 not to make the play-offs. If we could pull it off I’ll be mighty proud of the players, coaches and everyone.”
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