Forget talk about finals, we have to get there first, says Leicester Tigers prop Dan Cole
Dan Cole says there is nine months of hard graft ahead before Leicester Tigers need to tackle the issue of how to win Premiership finals.
The Grand Final defeat by Harlequins last season was Leicester's second consecutive loss on the league's biggest day.
It was also their fifth defeat in an astonishing eight consecutive visits to Twickenham, and prompted discussions into why the club had only a 38 per cent winning record on the big day during that spell.
Cole says Leicester have spoken about that in the build-up to the 2012-13 campaign but insists that, now the season is finally here, Tigers must put all thoughts of finals to the back of their mind until late May.
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"We played that final last season like it was a league game and thought that we could throw it around," said the 25-year-old prop.
"We went behind and chased the game too much instead of playing possession.
"We looked back at the game at it was embarrassing. It was not a true reflection of how we played that season.
"And that was made worse by how well we were playing going into that game. We had been to places like Saracens, Harlequins and Northampton and won.
"We have spoken about it in pre-season and the main aim is to get back there.
"It's all very well saying 'we must do this and that' when we get to the final – but we have to get there first and that is nine months of extremely hard work.
"We need to concentrate on getting to the final first before worrying about what to do when we are there."
Cole will be a busy man again this season after securing his place as England's No.1 tight-head on the summer tour of South Africa.
Closer to home, the product of the Tigers Academy will have his usual battle with Martin Castrogiovanni for the No.3 shirt at Leicester.
Throw in the likes of Logovi'i Mulipola, a fit-again Kieran Brookes and youngster Fraser Balmain, who has been strongly tipped by director of rugby Richard Cockerill, and Cole has plenty of motivation to stay on top of his game.
"I think there is more depth in the squad this year," he said. "If you look across the board, there's Tom Croft and Steve Mafi at blindside, Jordan Crane and Thomas Waldrom at No.8, there's big competition at hooker and there are several tight-heads too.
"There are very few positions which are nailed-on this season. Your pick for the best front eight may not be my pick for the best front eight.
"There are also guys like Graham Kitchener and Ed Slater, who came on really well at the end of last season and will be better for a year in the system.
"That's the way it always works here. Younger guys will come in and keep pushing on."
Cole has shown good form in pre-season and that has earned him the starting shirt for tomorrow's Aviva Premiership opener against London Welsh at the Kassam Stadium.
"Welsh will be out to prove a point," said Cole. "It is their first game in the Premiership at a new home, and it's on television too.
"Playing Leicester will get them really up for it and you don't win the Championship by being a bad side.
"They play hard and play through their forwards.
"They will be champing at the bit and we have been slow starters traditionally, so we will need to put a stop to that this season."