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Welsh rugby enveloped in its latest existential crisis

As Wayne Pivac teeters on the edge of finding new gainful employment after a series of disappointing results, the wider-lens story tells of dysfunction and frustration

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'He's going through a legal process at the minute... I hope he gets everything he is owed'

By Liam Heagney
(Photo by Bob Bradford - CameraSport via Getty Images)

It’s nearly two weeks now since the latest off-field drama unfolded at struggling Leicester, Geordan Murphy stepping away from his director of rugby role at the Premiership club following 23 years of service that began as a player in the late 1990s. 


The Irishman, who joined as a trialist in 1997 before working his way up the playing ranks, had become director of rugby in July with the arrival of Steve Borthwick to inherit the head coach position Murphy had filled since the 2018 sacking of Matt O’Connor. 

Leicester’s form under Borthwick in the restarted 2019/20 Premiership wasn’t good results-wise, Tigers only winning two of their nine matches. However, they started the new 2020/21 season with a home win last Saturday over Gloucester.

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Will the All Blacks finish with a win next Saturday?
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Will the All Blacks finish with a win next Saturday?

That positive first outing without Murphy having any involvement at the club for the first time in 23 years didn’t stop The Rugby Pod from expressing its sadness that Leicester have cut ties with a loyal servant.   

Andy Goode, the ex-Leicester out-half who hosts the show with Jim Hamilton, another former Tiger, wants the situation to now get settled amicably with the club paying up what Murphy is due on his contract rather than haggling about the situation.    

Speaking about the sudden November 13 departure of Murphy from Leicester, Goode said: “It boils down to the fact that Geordan’s contract was coming up at the end of the season and he was waiting for a conversation. He said, ‘Listen, contract is up at the end of the year, what’s happening? What are your plans? Am I involved long term? Steve Borthwick has come in. 


“There has been huge changes at that club. The CEO has changed, Simon Cohen has left. There is big changes on the board. We saw Rory Underwood leave a few weeks ago as well. Geordan asked the question and in reality they have said to him, ‘We’re not looking to extend your contract’. 

“Geordan has put 23 years of unbelievable service into that club be it as a player, as a kid coming through to captain it, winning all the trophies that he did, and then moving into the coaching department and earning his stripes there. He called himself a professional cone collector to start off with but he learned and built to eventually be the guy that took over as director of rugby and it’s tough on him. 

“Let’s not put all of the issues Leicester have had at Geordan’s door because I don’t think many of them could be attributed to him. A lot of it has been the recruitment, the quality of player that has left and not been replaced and where they have gone with their recruitment. That wasn’t anything to do with Geordan.

“I’m speaking as a very good mate so obviously I’m going to defend him slightly. but when you asked a question, which he did, about extending his contract and the club say we are in tough financial times as well, do they want a director of rugby and a head coach at the club, both earning good wages? Well, you have seen the answer so they are not going to extend it and they agreed to part company. 


“It’s a real shame for Geordan that he doesn’t get some sort of send off but once they made that decision as a club to say, look we’re not going to extend your contract, what impact could he have on the club this year when everyone that is making those decisions probably knew that anything he said wouldn’t have a long lasting weight behind it because they are seeing he is leaving. 

“It’s a massive shame. I think he is going through a legal process at the minute, how much he gets paid out. I hope he gets everything he is owed because that would be the only way of kind of thanking him for the 23 years of service. He has got a contract, a year left – don’t negotiate Leicester, just pay him what he is owed for that, shake hands and you walk away. 

“We saw Cockers [Richard Cockerill] did a wonderful job at Leicester but he left. There is a lot of people who have worked tirelessly at that club, loved that club, but sometimes you need a change and Geordan will be the first to admit that his tenure as director of rugby and head coach had been difficult where they finished in the league. 

“I don’t hold him responsible for a lot of that because the players he has had were as good as what he had and that’s why they finished where they did in the league (eleventh two seasons in succession).”

Hamilton added: “That is the hardest thing about it, his legacy. As a player he is one of the best in the northern hemisphere that we have ever seen… he’s such a legend for Leicester. The club has just been on the decline and he has been picking up the pieces for year on year on year. It’s sad he is gone.”


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RUGBYPASS+ Welsh rugby enveloped in its latest existential crisis Welsh rugby enveloped in its latest existential crisis