This season we have seen a further decline in the quality of rugby played by one of English rugby’s behemoth teams, Leicester Tigers. It begs the question, what has gone wrong?
From 2004 to 2013 the Leicester Tigers featured in a record nine consecutive Premiership finals. This run epitomised a domination of English rugby that can not be truly appreciated without looking at the specific details.
Leicester Tigers and London Wasps provided a decade of rugby that meant trophies went back and forth between the two stadiums. The past six years have not as kind to the two teams, however.
Three years without any sort of trophy is a drought of excruciating length for the Leicester fans that have been used to each season having some silverware to polish at the end of the season. The fans have been knocked out of the fight for the Premiership in the last three years.
Injuries have been a constant thorn in the side of Richard Cockerill during his tenure as Leicester coach. world class players such as Manu Tuilagi and Matt Toomua have briefly shown their wares on the field then have seen their bodies crack like fine china before any impact can be made on the overall season. Toomua has lasted just two games in his debut season. For the club that made Manu Tuilagi the highest paid player in England, it just is not good enough.
This season has brought further disharmony to the Leicester fans. Dismal showings in the Aviva Premiership week after week has led to an inordinate amount of pressure being placed on the coaching team of Richard Cockerill and Aaron Mauger.
The humiliating defeats to the Glasgow Warriors and Munster were the straw that broke the camel’s back. Cockerill’s position was untenable. Despite his misgivings with the decision to let him go, his affiliation with the Tigers was over.
Whilst speaking to the Telegraph he spoke of his regret.
“It is with great sadness and regret that I leave my position as director of rugby with immediate effect.
“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. This club has made me the person and the coach I am today and I will never forget what they have done for me.”
Ben Youngs tweeted out his support for Richard soon after his dismissal.
He gave me my shot and I enjoyed success under him. His commitment and passion for @LeicesterTigers was everything that the clubs about.
— Ben Youngs (@benyoungs09) 2 January 2017
The question now is where do the Tigers go from here?
Well firstly they need to get their full squad fit and into training, world class players such as Pietersen, Tuilagi and Toomua will make a huge difference on the pitch but also in the dressing room.
Secondly, the squad needs to be given consistency in the coaching environment. Allow Aaron Mauger another season to see what he has to offer. By all accounts Mauger did not agree with how Cockerill handled some of the aspects around a professional club so will most likely bring change to the establishment.
Tigers fans will hope that the 2017/18 season will be a new dawn.
Dan Higgins, Pundit Arena