After a series of poor results, Richard Cockerill took the decision to step down as the Leicester Tigers’ Director of Rugby.
In truth, the news did not come as too much of a surprise, as there had been intense speculation over his position in recent weeks. Indeed, the Daily Mail even went so far as to claim that Cockerill could have been sacked if the Tigers lost to Munster in Welford Road last month.
Although Cockerill can rightly point to injuries suffered by Manu Tuilagi and Matt Toomua this season, his side’s defensive frailties has been exposed time and again.
The sacking of defence coach, Scott Hansen, did little to improve the situation, with opponents seemingly able to generate quick ball at will against the Tigers.
Leicester haven’t learned from their mistakes either. The Glasgow Warriors cut holes right through the heart of the Tigers defence, while CJ Stander was allowed the space to expose similar gaps either side of the ruck in Thomond Park. Defending from inside out is real basic stuff.
Such errors left Cockerill’s future hanging by a thread, and Leicester’s defeat at the hands of Saracens proved to be the last straw.
Cockerill’s decision to stand down leaves the Tigers facing the prospect of having to recruit a Director of Rugby mid-season. A task that could be complicated should the Northampton Saints chose to part company with Jim Mallinder.
Already head coach at the Tigers, promoting Aaron Mauger would be the most simple and quickest way of replacing Cockerill.
Although the Mail did claim that the coaching culture had turned “toxic”, handing Mauger the role until the end of the season would give him the opportunity to bring in some of his own staff and improve the atmosphere.
A decision could then be made on whether or not to employ the kiwi on a permanent basis thereafter.
Unemployed since leading South Africa to a third placed finish at the 2015 World Cup, Heyneke Meyer has been linked with a number of positions in recent months.
At one stage the South African seemed best placed to take over from Andy Robinson at Bristol, but they opted for Pat Lam instead.
Meyer was previously employed by the Tigers, but was forced to step down as head coach soon after his appointment in 2008 due to family reasons.
Therefore a sense of unfinished business might be enough to tempt Meyer back to Welford Road.
To his credit, Stuart Lancaster has re-established himself as a top coach since joining Leinster at the beginning of the season.
The former England coach seemed to be in the running for any and every job in both hemispheres before the Irish side offered him the role as senior coach.
Although Lancaster would not be available until the end of the season, his philosophy would suit a club with a “toxic” coaching culture.
Highly thought of in France after successful stints in charge of Stade Francais and Montpellier.
After leading Stade to final appearances in both the Top 14 and Heineken Cup, Fabien Galthié moved to Montpellier in 2010, claiming a league title in his first season in charge.
However the former scrum half hasn’t coached since 2014 due to a court case involving Montpellier owner Mohed Altrad over compensation owed to Galthié.
As the case has now been settled, Galthié is in a position to seek employment elsewhere, and the Tigers might be a good places to start.
They could face competition from a series of French clubs who have been linked with 2002 World Player of The Year.
Having also reportedly fallen out with Altrad, Jake White is due to leave Montpellier at the end of the current campaign.
The World Cup winning coach will not only leave behind him a little South African enclave in Montpellier, but a great deal of success.
White’s abrasive game plan would also suit the Tigers’ traditional style of play, and his experienced hands could prove key in Leicester closing the gap on Saracens.
However, the Tigers would have to move fast as White might yet replace Allister Coetzee as coach of the Springboks.
We review the festive fixtures and look back on 2016 – The Year That Was