Thursday 6 December 2018 6:28 pm

Ollie Phillips: Leicester need to face harsh realities if they are to end losing streak in Champions Cup this weekend

I am a sports writer at City A.M, covering primarily football and cricket. Get in touch:

I am a sports writer at City A.M, covering primarily football and cricket. Get in touch:

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Leicester travel to Paris to play Racing 92 in the Champions Cup on Sunday on a losing run and in a difficult position.

The Tigers are second in Pool 4, with one win and one defeat from their opening two matches, but are not playing well and haven’t won a match since 6 October.

Coach Geordan Murphy said after their most recent loss that he feels like everything’s going against him and I’m not surprised.

He was thrown into the deep end when Leicester sacked Matt O’Connor one match into the season and has been forced to cope. They are paying the price for that snap decision, which threw consistency and stability out of the window.

I can’t see them ending their losing streak against Racing 92, who sit top of the pool with two wins.

Leicester need to face some harsh realities. They are not a top four Premiership side anymore – they are four points off bottom spot and have a league-worst points difference of -78.

The Tigers must forget comparisons to their sides of old, reform and create a new identity. Their season is far from over, but in time they may have to prioritise their league position.

Chiefs creaking

Another side facing a crucial weekend are Exeter Chiefs, who are last in Pool 2 following a draw with Munster and defeat by Castres.

The Chiefs are not accustomed to being bottom of the pile and face a make-or-break clash with Gloucester at Sandy Park on Saturday.

Coach Rob Baxter will be bitterly disappointed with how things have gone in Europe so far. Exeter are a Premiership-winning side who are vying for the title once again against the might of Saracens.

But their game-plan doesn’t seem to translate into the Champions Cup – it’s their Achilles’ heel. That’s what European competition is all about, with different styles of opponent forcing new ways to solve problems.

Exeter are no longer the promotion fairytale story they once were. They must keep moving forward if they are to progress from a very good side to a great one.

A win over Gloucester is an absolute must, because whoever loses could be looking at the beginning of the end of their Champions Cup campaign.

Falcons flying

By contrast Newcastle are bottom of the Premiership, but top of Pool 5 following a miracle win in Toulon and victory over Montpellier.

The Falcons got an 86th-minute winner against Northampton on Saturday and travel to Edinburgh on Friday with momentum and nothing to lose.

Despite their lowly position domestically, Dean Richards’ side have shown they have quality – epitomised by England’s back row Mark Wilson.

Strangely, Newcastle are in a situation where they can build momentum, generate confidence and galvanise themselves in Europe, rather than the other way around.

In Pool 1 both Bath and Wasps need to pick up their first wins of the campaign this weekend but it won’t be easy. Bath welcome the best side in Europe, Leinster, to The Rec, while Wasps host Toulouse.

Bath will hope the Champions Cup can bring the best out of their players, but Wasps looks an unhappy camp to me, with rumours of Elliot Daly moving to Saracens, and their French opposition will be sniffing an away win.

Finally, I’m expecting business as usual for Saracens against Cardiff Blues.

Sarries are on fire at the moment, with perfect records in the Premiership and Champions Cup and their efficient squad of internationals should extend that run.

Ollie Phillips is a former England Sevens captain and now a director within the real estate and construction team at PwC. Follow Ollie on Twitter and on LinkedIn

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