Dan Cole more grateful for final look after fruitless performance at Leicester

Dan Cole can recall a time when Leicester “automatically” qualified for the Gallagher Premier League playoffs and the final.

But the fact that their last appearance at Twickenham at the English rugby home exhibition took place nine years ago added some value to Saturday’s final against the Saracens.

When England’s Cole debuted with the Tigers almost 15 years ago, they were the dominant force.

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Leicester players celebrate their 2009 Premier League victory (David Jones/PA)

Leicester reached the Premier League final nine times in a row from 2005 to 2013, with Cole winning the title three times.

But the likes of the Saracens and Exeter then passed them as the Tigers flirted with relegation twice rather than battling for silver during recent campaigns.

“When I first joined the team, we played in the finals five times, and we automatically made the playoffs and made it to the finals,” Cole said.

Leicester went to nine in a row and even if you won or lost it was always ‘we have next year’.

Two or three years ago we could hardly win the game for love or money.Leicester prop Dan Cole

“Then it stopped, and you lived nine years without reaching even one, and learned to appreciate it.

“You will learn how hard it is to win one and how lucky you are to play for a team that wins week after week.

“Now we are changing the situation, but you understand how hard it is to win. Two or three years ago, we could hardly win the game for love or money.”

Cole has vivid memories of a painful Premier League game, looking back at how the 2018-19 season unfolded as Leicester finished 11th, beating Newcastle in what many called relegation’s deciding factor.

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Dan Cole (right) in a Premier League game for Leicester City (Nigel French/PA)

“I remember sitting in the dressing room about two weeks before we played Newcastle away in the relegation game,” he added.

“We played Northampton at home on Friday night and lost. The whole team threw everything at him, and they smashed us.

“You just sat in the locker room and thought, ‘We’re stuffed.’ Everyone in the room tried their best and we couldn’t get a result.

“It was the hardest moment I have ever had in a Leicester shirt.

Fast forward to an inspired resurgence over the past two years under head coach Steve Borthwick and Leicester are once again chasing the title.

Cole, who turned 35 last month and will make his 290th appearance for Leicester in the final, said: “There is nothing flashy about us that suits my character well.

“The 80 minutes you play on the weekend is a very small part. There is much more to the game and victories.

“As you get older, you create more memories and cling to them a little more, because as you get older you realize you can’t do this forever.

“We will never have the same lineup of players again and you never know what opportunities you will get.

“You want to impress some young guys that you should appreciate it for what it is.”