Steve Borthwick lauds "superb" Kevin Sinfield’s human touch at Leicester Tigers

Leicester Tigers coach Steve Borthwick has drastically improved the fortunes at Welford Road this season, having already beaten two major title favourites en route to taking top spot in the Premiership.

The club's most recent feat was restricting Saracens to just 12 points before sealing a dramatic one-point win over the English giants on Saturday, a sign of their defensive strengths in particular.

Former Leeds Rhinos and England rugby league star Kevin Sinfield is at least partially to thank for raising the standards in that particular domain after he joined the Tigers set-up over the summer.

Accustomed to making 13 men stretch across the same size pitch, Sinfield's nous has worked wonders so far, and Newcastle Falcons are the only team to have conceded fewer Premiership points after three games this season.

But it's the 41-year-old's personality, not his tactics, that make him such a valued member of his new team, according to the club's chief.

"The way he interacts with players, the man-management – he is superb," Borthwick told BBC Radio Leicester.

"He has an effect on players, they want to play for him. He can work with the kickers, he can work with the front row, but he's also got the ability – with the position he played and the skill set he has – to work with our main distributors in attack, so the attack and defence coaches are working hand in hand.

"You see him day-to-day and what he adds around the group, and the hundreds of small interactions, you wouldn't know about them until you see the effect of them."

Sinfield—who played a single season for Yorkshire Carnegie before retiring—isn't the first rugby league convert attempting to translate those teachings into the full-sided code.

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Wigan great Shaun Edwards formerly impressed as defence coach for Wasps and Wales, while he's helped improve France's national team in that area since joining last year.

England boss Eddie Jones has also looked to the sister sport for inspiration by adding Martin Gleeson and Anthony Seibold to his staff, former league coaches who will take over in attack and defence, respectively.

Leicester finished sixth in the Premiership last season and haven't contested a final since they last won the competition in 2013.

But their chances of ending that wait now look all the brighter, and Sinfield's input in man management seems a significant factor as to why.

It's not only the head coach who's a fan of Sinfield and his methods, either, with in-form fly-half George Ford also praising the new staff member following his impact in the east midlands.

"He's brought loads of knowledge and experience from his own career in rugby league," Ford said.

"Even though it's a vastly different game in many respects, the things around attitude in defence and working for each other, things around the collision, there's a lot of things that cross over and obviously Kev has brought that with him, which has been great for us all."

Ford, 28, has all the motivation he needs to break out after being dropped from Jones' squad for a recent 45-man England training camp.

But the fly-half remains assured his best rugby is still to come as he looks to earn his way back into the national team conversation.

Ford has in the past been criticised for his defence as a lightweight option in the No. 10 jersey, making Sinfield something of an ideal appointment if he's to improve that side of his game.

It's working to good effect thus far, and Leicester will see their table-topping status tested next when they travel to London Irish on Saturday.

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