Wednesday 12 December 2018

Under-pressure Murphy insists Tigers legend Johnson is not the answer to arrest alarming slide

Tough start: Murphy. Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images
Tough start: Murphy. Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images

Tom Cary

Leicester Tigers' interim head coach Geordan Murphy has not ruled out bringing more experience into his coaching group but says he does not think Martin Johnson is the answer to their current woes, nor does he believe the former England captain has "any interest in being involved in rugby".

Leicester have lost six games in a row, culminating in last weekend's 41-10 drubbing at Bristol, which has left them just three points off the foot of the Premiership table.

The prospect of a relegation battle is looming unless Murphy can get a grip of things.

But the former Ireland international, who was appointed on an interim basis after Matt O'Connor was sacked just one game into the current season, denied yesterday that relegation was a concern, adding that he had the full confidence of the Leicester board and hoped to tie up a permanent contract before Christmas.

"It's been a really tough start," Murphy admitted.

"We (as a coaching group) didn't have a pre-season. We were pretty much dumped in at the deep end.

"There are guys stepping up and taking on roles with which they are… not unfamiliar, but it's their first time doing them, including myself as head coach. So we're learning every week on the job.

"From my point view, I'm really happy with my coaching team. I think that the messages and the work and everything I see on a daily basis... I'm really proud of the group that I have.

"Could we add to that group?

"Potentially. Could we add more experience in there? That's always a possibility.

"We're very lucky we've got Mark Bakewell, who has 25 years of experience across lots of different clubs.

"We've got Simon Barbour, our head analyst who has been with England for a few years. So, from that point of view I'm happy.

"There are definitely areas of the game we need to tighten up, but I think the coaching points, from my point of view, are pretty simple and the (players) seem to understand them. But undoubtedly we've had some errors on the field."

Johnson, who made nearly 400 appearances for the club over a period of 16 years, has been touted in some quarters as the sort of no-nonsense talisman who might be able to come in and knock a few heads together.

But Murphy said he did not think the 48-year-old, who coached England for three years before resigning after the 2011 World Cup, was the answer.

"'Johnno' is a couple of miles down the road," Murphy said.

"I don't think he's got any interest in being involved in rugby. I think he's probably been at about two games in the last 10 years. I'm not sure there's anything Martin Johnson could do in this situation.

"We're very lucky we've got some guys around the club like Peter Wheeler, and others who have been in and around the club, and they're always very supportive. But none of them have overly put their hand up to step into the shark tank."

Murphy added that it was far too early to be talking about a relegation dogfight, pointing out that the season is still not even halfway completed, and said the ongoing debate about Premiership "ring-fencing" and the strengths and weaknesses of the current model of promotion and relegation was not something to which he had given much thought.

Instead, he maintained his focus was firmly on the impending Champions Cup double-header against European heavyweights Racing 92, the first leg of which arrives on Sunday with a tricky trip to Paris.

Leicester currently lie second in Pool 4 but victory could lift the Tigers to the top of the table and act as a catalyst for their season.

Either way, Murphy said the club's board were fully behind him and had offered him any assistance he needed, including potentially bringing in another coach.

"It's not something we're overly looking to do but there is always that possibility," he said.

"The board have been really supportive of me and the coaching team and they've sort of said any help we require they will assist us with. So from that point of view, it's been good. I don't have any targets (to hit to secure the post full-time). I'm just in discussions at the moment. I'm very hopeful.

"As I say, I've been very well supported and I'm really hopeful I can get something nailed down, get something done before Christmas, either way." (© Daily Telegraph, London)

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