Leicester Tigers head coach Steve Borthwick hailed his comparatively inexperienced side after they clinched a 23-17 win at Ospreys in the opening round of the Heineken Champions Cup on Sunday.
A number of the Gallagher Premiership champions’ leading players were absent for the trip to Swansea, but 13 points from 21-year-old fly-half Charlie Atkinson helped them to an important victory.
Ospreys fielded a starting XV featuring lock Adam Beard, flanker Justin Tipuric, scrum-half Rhys Webb, centre George North and wing Alex Cuthbert, all of whom have turned out for the British & Irish Lions.
By comparison, their opposite numbers – Harry Wells, Hanro Liebenberg, Jack van Poortvliet, Guy Porter and Harry Potter – have less than 10 international caps combined.
“Incredibly proud of the effort and the fight tonight from a group who played their hearts out,” Borthwick told Leicester’s website.
“Whatever the result was this evening, had that final play gone the way of Ospreys, I would have been just as proud as I am now.
“The fight this young group showed was brilliant, just brilliant, against what was a very good Ospreys side with a wealth of international experience.
⚡️ Magic from Harry Potter on the wing ⚡️
(𝘞𝘦 𝘩𝘦𝘢𝘳 𝘺𝘰𝘶𝘳 𝘨𝘳𝘰𝘢𝘯𝘴…)
But was there a confundus charm placed on Keelan Giles? 👀#HeinekenChampionsCup | @LeicesterTigers pic.twitter.com/LbQjN0Zr0C
— Heineken Champions Cup (@ChampionsCup) December 11, 2022
“They are a quality opposition and you can see from our boys in the changing room, that was a tough game tonight.
“We found a way, the players found a way and to do that up against a team who had the experience they did on the pitch was immense.
“To adapt to the game in the way they did, continue to fight and work together for the result is very pleasing.”
Borthwick, who hoped Leicester fans shared his sentiments following the Ospreys win, says the group will seek further improvement before they welcome ASM Clermont Auvergne in Round 2 on Saturday.
“I hope the supporters are proud of the team tonight,” he said. “We go out every weekend with the same intention of being a better side than we were last week.
“The players should enjoy this together tonight and then, as with every week, we shift focus immediately to preparing for the next game against Clermont at Mattioli Woods Welford Road.”