By Neale Harvey
Tom Youngs knows Leicester’s home record must improve dramatically if they are to avoid the ignominy of missing out on the play-offs for a second season.
Tigers lost five of last season’s 11 home league games at Welford Road, where their failure to secure enough try-bonus points was another factor behind missing a top four place.
Shock troops Newcastle drove the final nail into Leicester’s coffin last April with a dramatic 25-23 victory at Tigers and the Geordies are first up at Welford Road on Saturday.
Skipper Youngs told The Rugby Paper: “We’ve talked about Welford Road and how we need to change things there. It’s very un-Leicester like to lose five home league games.
“I don’t think there’s a mental hurdle there but we’ve spoken about how we’ll approach things this season and we’ll be changing a few things up, like our warm-up routines.
“The fans support us very well and we want to win at home as much as they do. Unfortunately, last year that didn’t happen enough but we’re determined to change that.
“We’ve got to be more clinical. We only managed half the number of try-bonus points as some other teams and it’s about being more ruthless when we’re on top.
“There were plenty of opportunities towards the end of games, not just to win games but get the bonus points as well, so it was frustrating to miss the play-offs by a point.
“In many ways it’s a reflection of how competitive the league is and the margins between fifth place and second were fine.”
Youngs believes the addition of heavyweight second row Will Spencer will give Leicester more grunt and expects the former Bath and Worcester man to push for an England place.
“England have got a lot of second rows but Will offers something that perhaps others don’t have,” said Youngs. “He’s a big guy who adds a good lump of physicality but he also tackles extremely well and he’s a very good ball-carrier.
“He’s very professional in his approach and I’d say he’s someone England will need to keep an eye on because, along with (flanker) Dave Denton, he’s brought a bit more bulk to the Leicester pack that perhaps we’ve been lacking over recent seasons.”
Fit-again Manu Tuilagi is another who should not be written off by England, with Youngs adding: “I’m desperate to see Manu go forwards again and he’s worked very hard and diligently to get back, so you hope he’ll just get a good run at it now and stay fit.
“He’s a phenomenal player and not many can do what he does with his fends and power running. You need five or six games to get right back in the swing but once he starts ticking those games off, his confidence will rise and he’ll be back to his best.”
Youngs is also in great shape following his wife’s recovery from cancer.
The 31-year-old former England hooker said: “It’s the best I’ve felt for a long time with the news of Tiffany as well, so I’m feeling good. Life feels normal again and it’s a great story, so I’m just looking forward to helping Tigers get back to the top now.”
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