Richard Wigglesworth: Leicester Tigers scrum-half 'wouldn't mind' coaching at club

Richard Wigglesworth
Richard Wigglesworth joined Leicester Tigers in November 2020, after a decade at Saracens

Richard Wigglesworth has achieved just about everything in English domestic rugby.

More matches (294 and counting) in the Premiership than any other player; a record six Premiership titles; three European Champions Cup crowns.

Throw in two Rugby World Cup campaigns with England – 2011 and 2015 – which fell woefully short of expectations, and it’s fair to say he’s experienced most things in the game.

If his final year of a decade of unparalleled success at Saracens was marred by the salary cap breaches which led to their relegation, the adversity proved good preparation as he swapped European rugby’s dominant force for its biggest fallen giant.

“The turmoil in the last year at Saracens really helped me,” says Wigglesworth, who in November joined a Leicester side who had finished second bottom of English rugby’s top tier for the past two seasons.

“[The news of the breaches] coming out, Covid-19, not having a contract, it has all helped me work out that you can sometimes be on to something, but not be able to see the immediate results of it,” he told BBC Radio Leicester.

“I’m not sure I would have been skilled enough to deal with the frustrations had I come straight here off the back of winning the double.”

Sarries Wigglesworth
Wigglesworth has won six Premiership titles during his career – five at Saracens, and one with Sale

His move to Tigers coincided with the arrival of his former Saracens and England team-mate Steve Borthwick as head coach.

Wigglesworth says he has “never seen a coach so across everything”.

“I first met Steve when I first played for England; he was captain when I made my debut, and he was my captain for a couple of years when I moved to Saracens. I was unbelievably impressed with him as a leader then.

“He was the reason I came, to be honest. Given time, he will make a big impact on this club.”

So impressed has Wigglesworth been that his next steps might well include coaching alongside Borthwick at Leicester.

“Where my future is, we shall see, but I am going to coach,” says the 33-times capped Englishman.

“I wouldn’t mind working for Steve, I’ll be honest. He’d be a tough boss, but I’ve always wanted to get better, no matter how tough the environment.

“Steve’s been brilliant, in terms of pushing me. I get books from him, and start to understand his process, get to ask him better questions.”

Wigglesworth says Tigers head coach Borthwick has “really pushed him” to learn more about the game

Wigglesworth has been preparing for life beyond playing for the past six years. He started helping out with coaching at Harrow School, and then did a turn as attack coach at Championship side Ealing Trailfinders before his move to the East Midlands.

He says he wanted to “put his money where his mouth was” and prove himself before he retired from playing.

At Leicester, he has a perfect environment to learn the ropes – one which requires wholesale change, and with a youthful squad featuring a crop of new, exciting scrum-halves.

“He sets a fantastic example and drives competition within the squad,” says Borthwick, who previously held the record for most Premiership appearances (265) before Wigglesworth overtook him.

“The last players to leave the pitch today were Jack van Poortvliet, Richard Wigglesworth and Ben White, all nines working hard on their skills and development.

“He’s added enormously to the player group.”

Wigglesworth speaks very highly of the next generation of scrum-halves at the club, saying both Van Poortvliet and White can do “anything they want to do” in the game.

However, he is coy when asked whether this season will be his last as a player.

“We’ll talk about it when the time is right,” says Wigglesworth, who has captained Leicester twice in his six outings to date.

“I’ve learned to wait and do the right thing, rather than panic.”

van Poortvliet
Jack van Poortvliet is one of a number of young Tigers scrum-halves competing with, and learning from, Wigglesworth

Wigglesworth is open about the struggles of the past year or so, but some have been self-inflicted.

A fortnight after scoring a try on his Leicester debut, he was banned from playing for five weeks.

Before joining the Tigers, Wigglesworth was part of a group of Barbarians players who were found to have broken Covid-19 protocols, forcing the cancellation of their match against England last October.

“It was my fault,” he says. “Was I happy with the process? No. It was very frustrating, but Steve got me involved as much as I could while I couldn’t play.”

Wigglesworth’s impact is already being felt in Leicester. The Tigers have won three of the six games he has played so far, and appear to be slowly emerging from their slump.

“When everything was happening at Saracens, you thought, ‘this is the worst thing that will ever happen to me’,” he added.

“But that’s when you show what you’re all about. When it’s tough, that’s when you stand up as a senior player.”


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