Cockerill’s outburst over Flood is a sign of tension behind the scenes

Richard Cockerill has always been vocal, forthright and blunt. He has carried those three attributes around for the entirety of his professional life and forged a successful career on the back of them. Yesterday, when probed about the wellbeing of his first-choice fly-half Toby Flood, the Leicester Tigers director of rugby flew off the handle in a characteristically obdurate manner.

In short, Cockerill absolutely slammed England boss Stuart Lancaster, accusing the England boss of naivety and implying his comments earlier in the week regarding Flood’s ankle injury – and physio Phil Pask’s visit to Oval Park ahead of next month’s tour to South Africa – had divulged “privileged information.”

Reading between some very black and white lines, it became apparent that the former England hooker was effectively accusing Lancaster of compromising the good faith of Leicester Tigers in order to appease a media wolf pack. It was a damning indictment that featured a typically abrasive Cockerill-ism:

“Toby is on club duty. It is our business and the speculation is not helpful.”

Now, conflict between club and country is never pretty. It always reminds me of Sir Alex Ferguson’s ruthlessly narrow-minded policies that, while unparalleled in terms of success, win few friends. Of course it is not Cockerill’s desire to endear himself to anyone, but open-air derision is rarely beneficial.

Critically, the outburst has also exposed some tension in the Tigers’ ranks just over a week away from the Aviva Premiership final clash with Harlequins. Having stumbled against the Saracens in last season’s decider, there will be a private sense of desperation about the preparation of the East Midlands side.

Unfortunately for Leicester fans, that has just been made public. George Ford would do well to cover his ears.

Expect Lancaster to handle this matter with dignity and understatement, as he has dealt with every situation so far since Martin Johnson vacated the hottest seat in rugby. Expect Cockerill to retire to his cave and whip his charges into a frenzy for their Twickenham encounter next Saturday.

Above all though, hope that the working relationship between this pair – pivotal to the health of England rugby – does not strain any further. Besides Flood, there are eight other Tigers set for the trip to face the Springboks. Trust is vital.

by Charlie Morgan

11 thoughts on “Cockerill’s outburst over Flood is a sign of tension behind the scenes

  1. Personally I agree with Cockerill. Why is Lancaster detailing information about a player the week before the Premiership final? It’s surely down to Tigers to announce the fitness of their players and as he rightly said no one from England has told him how Danny Care is!

    I think it’s nothing more than making a point that Club and Country shouldn’t mix in regard to information presented to the media and the public.

    To make anymore of his comments or actions would be in my opinion a gross over statement I the facts!

  2. It doesn’t show tension at all; it shows Cockerill is not going to let an inexperienced coach get away with completely inappropriate behaviour. It is naive of Lancaster to do this, but he will no doubt learn from it.

    1. Inexperienced ! look at his CV . Cockermouth has been moaning ever since he bottled out of taking the England job himself ! He must be embarrassing to his club keep bloody moaning all the time!

      1. Exactly – look at his CV. A few years at Leeds (who were not exactly successful) and the Saxons. Cockers has far more experience but he thought that he wasn’t ready for England so they appointed a less experienced person who has so far been lucky. What is far more embarrassing is the small minded individuals who seem to think that they know best what his club thinks when that can’t even write in proper English.

  3. It’s a shame. I don’t think Lancaster has meant anything by it, and I think Cockerill’s accusation of Lancaster simply appeasing a media wolf pack is harsh. Lancaster is simply being outright, honest and truthful.

    Aren’t those the qualities we WANTED in our coach, after the question dodging of Martin Johnson?

    There is however, a sign of inexperience from Lancaster’s part but we can’t just turn on him for that. He has been outstanding with the press since his time began. Now he will know better. Lesson learnt.

    I’m a Leicester fan, but I couldnt give a hoot what Lancaster reveals about Flood, because Flood is an England player (in my opinion more important then being a Leicester Tiger), and I want my England coach to be honest about what he knows.

  4. Lancaster was naive in saying what he said but the problem is compunded by the fact that Cockers should have engaged brain before shooting his mouth off in the press. If he’d broached the subject in private or via the Tigers chief exec then that might have had more of an impact. Now we have a situation which will no doubt ratchet up the tension between the club and the RFU when a bit of common sense could have avoided this scenario.

  5. I think it’s just a lot to do with Cockerill imposing himself on Lancaster and making sure he knows how Leicester are to be dealt with. It’s on Premiership coaches to make a point to the RFU that while the season is going on, players are their responsibility and their business. Lancaster’s unfortunate mistake was doing this to Cockerill, who of all people is going to make sure – publicly – that Lancaster knows his place

    It’s a strong rant from Cockerill, but Lancaster has publicly embarrassed him and I think he’s got the right to do it back.

  6. Well saying Cockerill is angry at something or somebody is a bit like saying the Duke of Edinburgh isn’t politically correct -it’s a given.

  7. Cockerill loves a storm in a teacup – it’s not like everyone knew already about Floods injury before Lancaster said what he said is it ? Oh yes it is – Cockerill is fast becoming the fergie of the rugby world, which is a backhanded compliment.

    Lancaster is right to want to know the extent of the injury so he can make plans if Flood is out of the picture – if anything it’s selfish of Cockerill and he’s just trying not to make himself look like the bad guy.

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