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Richard Cockerill is sacked by Montpellier after just seven games

By Liam Heagney
(Photo by Andrew Kearns/CameraSport via Getty Images)

Former England assistant Richard Cockerill has been sacked by Montpellier just seven games into the Top 14 season. The Eddie Jones appointed forwards coach opted not to continue at Test level under Steve Borthwick, signalling his intention last spring to finish up at the end of the 2023 Guinness Six Nations and instead take up a sports manager role at the home of the 2022 French league champions.

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However, his stay in the south of France has come to an abrupt end after Montpellier owner Mohed Altrad drafted in Bernard Laporte over the weekend and one of his first decisions was to remove Cockerill from his post.

The upheaval came following Saturday’s loss at fellow strugglers Perpignan, which resulted in Montpellier falling to the bottom of the Top 14 table with just one win in seven matches this term.

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The Cockerill era had started on August 20 with a home win over back-to-back European champions La Rochelle, but six defeats in succession prompted Altrad to act.

Laporte arrived in Montpellier late on Sunday morning and he quickly instigated an overhaul of the coaching staff, starting with the sacking of Cockerill and Jean-Baptiste Elissalde. The former France head coach explained to Midi Olympique that he had agreed to assist the club some weeks ago but wasn’t expecting to start as soon as he had.

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“I really like Mohed, we are in regular contact,” he began. “He asked me several times and I felt it was the right time. We agreed last week but the defeat against USAP precipitated everything. I couldn’t leave this club in difficulty. Last in the Top 14, is out of place.

“With Mohed, we decided to change everything. My mission will be to support him, to support the players, but first of all, to put together a new staff. That’s what I did this weekend. I won’t be on the pitch, I’m not going to coach. I’m not old enough for that anymore, especially since it’s been more than eight years since I’ve done it.

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“A few days ago, a mutual friend put me in touch with Patrice Collazo. We hit it off. He will be the new general manager of the MHR, replacing Richard Cockerill. After that, I looked at the available technicians who were likely to come to Montpellier. That is why I called Vincent Etcheto this morning at length and he is on his way to Montpellier and along with Patrice.

“Christian Labit also gave me his agreement this Sunday morning, he will come to take care of the forwards with Antoine Battut – the club had obtained his signature a few days ago. I discovered that the four of them knew and liked each other. They want to work together and with me.

“Richard Cockerill and Jean-Baptiste Elissalde will not continue with us. They are no longer there. On the other hand, Jeremy Valls will continue to take care of the kicking game and Benson Stanley of the defence.”

It was last February, following England’s opening round Six Nations loss to Scotland, when the RFU confirmed that Cockerill, who had joined for the 2021/22 season under Jones after leaving Edinburgh, would be moving on at the end of that campaign.

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The coach said at the time in a statement: “Having coached and played in France previously, my family and I always had aspirations to return. This opportunity presented itself some time ago and it was too hard to turn down personally and professionally.

“It is disappointing not to work with Steve and the wider team beyond the Six Nations. I had hoped to be able to stay for the Rugby World Cup, but the timings weren’t meant to be.”

With his Montpellier adventure cut short, Cockerill has already been linked with the Test-level vacancy in Georgia left by Levan Maisashvili, the head coach who stepped away after their recent Rugby World Cup campaign.

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