Cockerill laments Tigers axe after end to 23-year relationship
Leicester Tigers yesterday sacked director of rugby Richard Cockerill after an eight-year spell in charge. A 16-12 home defeat by Saracens on New Year's Day proved to be the final straw as the club dropped five points behind the Aviva Premiership play-off places.
Head coach Aaron Mauger will take interim charge of the team and is among the favourites to take on the role full time.
The sacking ends a 23-year association between Leicester and Cockerill, who represented them for 10 years as a hooker. He joined the coaching staff in 2004 and took over from Heyneke Meyer as director of rugby in 2008, leading the club to three Aviva Premiership titles.
The last of those came in 2013 and since then the club have been usurped by Saracens as English rugby's dominant force. Wasps and Bath, two of their great rivals, have also threatened to steal a march on Leicester, who have lost five of their 12 league games this season.
After reaching the Premiership final for nine consecutive seasons from 2004, the Tigers have lost in the semi-finals for the past three campaigns.
Three years without silverware is a Saharan drought for a club of Leicester's history and corresponding expectations.
Cockerill suffered horribly with injuries. Manu Tuilagi, who picked up another knee injury against Saracens, has barely played since being made England's best paid player, while Matt Toomua, the Australia centre whom Leicester made their marquee signing, was ruled out for the rest of the season in just his second game for the club.
Yet the prospect of missing out on the play-offs altogether coupled with humiliating Champions Cup defeats by Glasgow Warriors and Munster forced the board to act, even if Cockerill disagreed with the move.
"It is with great sadness and regret that I leave my position as director of rugby with immediate effect," Cockerill said. "I still believe that I am the right person to lead the team at this present time but respect the board's decision to make change as they see fit in the best interests of the club.
"I arrived back at the club in 2004 (after a two-year spell with Montferrand) as an academy coach and leave as DOR with a record that speaks for itself and stands up against any in club rugby in the world." (© Daily Telegraph, London)