There had been rumours swirling for a while that Matt O’Connor and Leicester Tigers were no longer the happy union they had once been, but it still came as a surprise when the club made the decision to move the coach on after just one game of the 2018/19 season.
It seems as though the 40-6 humbling at the hands of Exeter Chiefs on the weekend was the last nail in the coffin for the Australian and Tigers legend Geordan Murphy has been put in charge of the team on an interim basis.
It raises plenty of questions, such as if one disastrous result was enough to make the move on from O’Connor, why was the decision not made in the summer and a new coach allowed to prepare the group for the season?
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Either way, it is Murphy who is now tasked with improving Leicester’s waning fortunes. As interim boss, he will get first crack at proving he is the man to take the club forward and into a brighter future, but who else might be on Tigers’ radar?
We take a look at some of the prospective candidates.
The Olympic gold-winning coach has been vocal in the past about his desire to take on the day-to-day responsibility of running an entire program, something which makes a role at a Gallagher Premiership club more likely than the England attack coach position, a job he is constantly linked with.
A progressive coach who is unafraid to think outside of the box, Ryan doesn’t necessarily fit with the traditional conservative DNA at the club, but that DNA did not help either Richard Cockerill or O’Connor in recent years and perhaps a shake-up and an original approach is needed at Welford Road.
He couldn’t, could he? The England age-grade coach was, with former assistant Dorian West, at the Premiership Shield match between Leicester and Northampton Saints on Monday night and though he was surely just checking in on his son, who was at 15 for Northampton, and some possible England U20 call-ups, the timing is too perfect to completely dismiss it out of hand.
The pair would certainly fit that Tigers DNA but given Mallinder’s recent hire by the RFU and the travails faced by the duo at Northampton in the final few seasons of their tenure there, it seems unlikely.
It’s a shame Kennedy didn’t get more of a crack at London Irish, having proven that not only can he develop talent, but that he can also put together a coherent and effective game plan on match day. Irish weren’t relegated because of deficiencies at the director of rugby or coaching levels, they had less money than the other 11 teams and that showed in the quality and depth of the squad.
That’s not a problem Kennedy would encounter at Leicester, where there is the financial firepower available to build a team that is challenging for the title and not battling against relegation.
Could a Ford triple-threat attack be the answer at Welford Road?
Everyone remembers the success Ford senior had with George at Bath and whilst making coaching additions purely to suit the playing style of a small group of players is a dangerous process, it is a tick in the positives column.
The delayed introduction of the Dallas Griffins to the MLR in the US mean that Ford is currently a free agent.
A vacancy has come up in English rugby, you say? Prepare to be inundated with calls for this man to make his return. Like Ryan, Lancaster would provide a fresh approach and a much-needed move away from the prescription, route one play of Leicester over the last 12 months.
There is no need for him to leave Leinster, where he is having a very enjoyable and successful stint, but increased responsibility at English rugby’s biggest club? If Leicester are willing to meet the compensation requirement to buy him out of his current contract, it must be a tempting proposition.
Rumoured to have been in the mix for the Harlequins role before Paul Gustard’s appointment, the two-time Super Rugby-winning supremo might be the hottest coaching property in the game right now.
Success in Super Rugby is no guarantee of success in the Gallagher Premiership, with the two competitions enjoying their fair share of differences, but you’d feel fairly confident predicting his ability to turn Leicester around and get them on a path back to the very top.
We were all confident that Mitchell would be shortly announced as England’s new defence coach but what a switcheroo this could be.
A shot at Rugby World Cup glory with England is nothing to turn your nose up at but there’s also no denying the lure of being in charge of a group and trying to build something that can have success for years to come, as he would be able to do at Leicester.
Perennially linked with every high-profile vacancy in rugby union, it would be remiss to ignore the possibility of White at Welford Road.
Currently the head coach of Toyota Verblitz in the Japanese Top League, White would certainly stay true to the style of play that Leicester’s success was built upon and he showed in the Top 14 with Montpellier that he can still craft an effective team in that manner.
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