‘It has been tough to be a captain, especially a socially-distanced one’: Tom Youngs lifts the lid on fall-out from upheaval at Leicester amid coronavirus crisis
- The 33-year-old spent much of the recent shut-down with his family in Norfolk
- He was also trying to manage the fall-out from wide-ranging upheaval at his club
- The Tigers have been hit by pay cuts – prompting players to seek legal advice
- There has been a change of chief executive and overhaul of the coaching set-up
- Here’s how to help people impacted by Covid-19
Tom Youngs has revealed the difficulty of trying to lead Leicester’s unsettled squad through a period of unprecedented turbulence – and somehow maintaining solidarity, while kept apart.
The 33-year-old former England and Lions hooker spent much of the recent shut-down period with his family in Norfolk, while trying to manage the fall-out from wide-ranging upheaval at his club.
The Tigers have been hit by pay cuts – prompting players to seek legal advice – and the threat of job losses, a change of chief executive and an overhaul of the coaching set-up, while front-rowers Ellis Genge and Greg Bateman set about creating a new players’ union.
Tom Youngs has revealed the difficulty of trying to lead Leicester’s unsettled squad
It has been a tough time to be acting as captain, especially a socially-distanced one. ‘It’s been very testing – from the top down,’ said Youngs. ‘The best thing you can do in any situation like this is get everyone in a room, sit down and explain it, so people can ask questions. It is very difficult when you can’t do that.
‘We are a team, but everyone is at a different point in their lives. I am 33 with X number of years left to play, a 21-year-old has got loads of years left. We’re all in different circumstances. It’s very difficult to keep the group together and take a concept across the whole board. It has been tricky.
‘I think we have done it as well as we can. The problem was that things moved so quickly. Everyone was dealing with something they don’t know. When you haven’t got the full information, it is very difficult to give straight answers at times.’
Tensions between clubs and their employees have reached boiling point in recent weeks, as the Rugby Players’ Association have sought to protect their members against long-term wage cuts.
Leicester props Ellis Genge and Greg Bateman considered creating a new players’ union
Youngs insisted that Leicester have treated their players fairly, adding: ‘It’s a very difficult one for the club.. They’re trying to get through a tough spot and they’re making tough decisions. I wouldn’t want to be in their shoes.
‘Some guys still have some questions. I think it’s getting there. We got through the last one (pay cut of 25 per cent) and now the salary cap is going to be dropped. There are conversations going on with players and it is different for every individual. On the whole, we are heading in the right direction, but it can be a tough one for individuals to understand why it’s happening.’
The struggling Tigers hope to start going in the right direction again on the field once Steve Borthwick comes on board as their new head coach, after stepping down from his role in charge of England’s forwards. ‘I think he will bring a real edge to us, if you look at the England pack and the way they play,’ said Youngs.
‘Everyone talks about Steve’s lineout ability which is second to none, but he brings a real edge to a group and a clear understanding to a group. I am really excited to work with him. He is one of the best coaches in the world and we have got him coming here.’
Borthwick will be working in a Tigers coaching set-up which includes ex-England defence guru Mike Ford, while George Ford is the club’s Red Rose playmaker. Earlier this month, father and son were strongly criticised by dual-code international Sam Burgess, who accused the Fords of a negative influence on England’s calamitous 2015 World Cup campaign.
Asked about the league legend’s remarks, Youngs said: ‘That was a long time ago. I thought he’d get over it by now, but he obviously felt the need to say something. To me, Mike is a good bloke and he’s always been a good bloke. He’s been good for the club; he’s committed and he works hard.
‘George is a phenomenal professional, a fantastic leader and a great guy. I can’t speak highly enough of him. For Sam Burgess to come out and say stuff like that – it’s his opinion but I wouldn’t agree with it.’
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