Premiership final: Geoff Parling plays down Leicester run

Geoff Parling

Premiership final: Harlequins v Leicester

Twickenham Stadium
Saturday, 26 May 2012
Live commentary on BBC Radio 5 live and BBC Local Radio; scores, report and reaction on BBC Sport website. Live on ESPN

Leicester Tigers and England lock Geoff Parling could surely be forgiven for having a slightly smug feeling following a staggeringly successful season.

The 28-year-old has returned from an injury-plagued couple of years to play a leading role in a remarkable turnaround for both club and country.

Parling has seemingly established himself as a central figure in head coach Stuart Lancaster's new-look England set-up following a lamentable Word Cup campaign, and is looking to cap an extraordinary domestic season by winning the Premiership final against Harlequins on Saturday.

But his focus remains solely on the season finale. And no amount of cajoling, probing and gentle pushing will distract him from the goal of capping a crazy club season by winning the Twickenham showpiece against the table-topping Londoners.

The softly-spoken son of Stockton-on-Tees simply does not appear keen to reflect on his achievements - or indeed the club's.

"I haven't thought about this season at all - I've reviewed the last time we played Quins and that's it," Parling said.

"All of us our fully focused on the final and I'm really looking forward to Saturday."

A Tigers side depleted by international call-ups and injuries lost five of their opening six league matches and were second from bottom in October.

But they recovered in remarkable fashion, losing just one Premiership game since October, to finish second in the table and secure a home play-off semi-final.

The subsequent win over Saracens in the final four, coupled with the victory over Northampton in the LV= Cup and the emergence of young talent like fly-half George Ford, means one more win on Saturday will ensure another successful season.

Parling has more than played his part, but his state of mind is something those outside of the England and Tigers camp will have to second guess because he pretty much refuses to discuss his meteoric rise.

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Parling urges Tigers to stay calm

That selfless approach has always served the club well. No more so than this season.

Director of rugby Richard Cockerill remained relatively calm during those troublesome early weeks, but was beginning to show signs of the tension as he continued to fend off questions about his future and Leicester's rare predicament.

Cockerill refused to use it as an excuse, but it was obvious the World Cup was having a huge impact on their season.

Parling recalls: "We were missing a hell a of a lot of good players at the World Cup. Any squad missing that amount and quality of players is going to struggle.

"It was a new experience for lots of people involved in Tigers to be down the bottom of the league sitting in 11th place. It's not a place anyone here is used to be being.

"It just showed the character of the team that when the lads came back from the World Cup, there was no room for error and we pretty much had to win them all. The form has been very good since then but it will count for nothing if we get to the final and lose.

"We don't want to think 'we did okay and we got ourselves out of a hole', we want to think 'we got out of a hole and we won the championship'.

"We always knew when the guys came back we would improve. There were points when we thought 'are we too far behind? Is it going to be too much of an uphill task' but fairplay, we just got on with it."

Parling said confidence is high but staying calm and in control will be the key to bringing home the Premiership trophy on Saturday.

"We're feeling really good," the former Newcastle Falcons forward added.

"We've been on decent form. We have got into the final again and have a massive opportunity to win some silverware, which is what this club expects.

"But as best we can, we will treat it as any other game - as we have done all season - and prepare as we have done.

"You can do that in how you prepare on the field and in training. There are obviously other things that go around being in a final; the atmosphere as you arrive at the ground and the crowd when you run on to the pitch.

"You don't need to get too hyped up because if you are not up for a final then I would say there is a bit of a problem anyway.

"It's about being composed, getting on with your jobs, knowing your roles and just going through your plays. You can get too fired up almost and forget things you need to do so it's about keeping cool up top.

"We know they are a quality team. They have threats all over the park. They have probably evolved a bit more this season from having a "let's chuck it about mentality".

"They still do that but they have got a real good set of forwards now. Their set-piece has been really good and we saw that with the maul they scored [against Northampton] to get through in the semi-final so they are a pretty complete team."

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Season hinges on one game - Allen

Parling also feels last month's impressive bonus-point league victory last month will count for little.

"You can look back and see what worked well and what went badly, but this is a totally different game," he said. "We won down there a few weeks ago but so what? What's gone on in the past counts for nothing.

"You can say we have the experience of being in finals and winning championships.

"But if they get the upper hand after 20 minutes and get an early try, that experience will count for nothing.

Tigers team-mate Anthony Allen has said their season will be judged on one match, and Parling agrees.

"There's one more huge game to finish the season off," Parling said.

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