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Richard Cockerill on Leicester Tigers

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Cockerill on Leicester Tigers: 'I got the sack because they wanted to be in a better position than they were'

By PA Authors
By Online Editors

Richard Cockerill believes former club Leicester Tigers have lost their way and are not too good to be relegated from the Gallagher Premiership.

The Tigers – two-time European champions and England’s most successful club with 10 Premiership titles – would be bottom of the league had Saracens not been deducted 35 points for breaching salary cap regulations.

Leicester have a 26-point advantage over Saracens, but Cockerill expects that to be wiped out before the end of the season and says the Tigers must find the fight to avoid the drop.

“The first thing they need to do is realise where they’re at and what they need to do next,” said Cockerill, who spent nearly eight years in charge at Welford Road before being sacked in January 2017.

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“I’m not sure Leicester have decided where they’re at. Once you realise that you can do something about it.

“But no-one’s too good to go down. Look at Saracens historically and they will be right in the mix to survive – Leicester will need those 26 points.

“Leicester were in the relegation scrap last year and, unfortunately for them, their season has not started particularly well. They’re in the same boat as last year.”

Cockerill, who played 250 games for Leicester between 1992 and 2002, joined the club’s coaching staff in 2004 and was promoted to head coach in 2009.

The Tigers were fifth in the Premiership when Cockerill was sacked – 15 points adrift of leaders Wasps – but the former England hooker had brought plenty of silverware to the club during his tenure.

“Sometimes you have to be careful what you wish for,” Edinburgh head coach Cockerill said at the Guinness PRO14 media day in Cardiff.

“The blunt reality is I got the sack because they wanted to be in a better position than they were.

“I had eight years at the club as coach – we were champions three times, finalists twice and semi-finalists three times.

“We got to a European final, LV Cup and a European semi-final. If that wasn’t good enough then the people that made change need to make it better.”

Leicester visit second-placed Northampton Saints on Saturday and are set to be bolstered by the return of several of their World Cup players.

The Tigers had six in England’s original World Cup partyGeorge Ford, Manu Tuilagi, Jonny May, Ben Youngs, Dan Cole and Ellis Genge.

But Cockerill fears the squad does not have sufficient strength in depth to ward off a relegation battle.

“They’ve got good players,” Cockerill said. “You put those players back into that squad and they’re obviously a much better team.

“They shouldn’t be where they are with the quality of player they’ve got.

“But the reality is in eight weeks time they’re going to be playing Six Nations again and all those players are going to disappear.

“They’re still getting 20,000 people, even with the situation they’re in. It’s a big club with a big supporter base and big expectations.

“But time waits for no person and you can only move forward if you know where you are in the first place. You’ll have to ask the board at Leicester what their plan is.”

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Cockerill on Leicester Tigers: 'I got the sack because they wanted to be in a better position than they were'