With the inquest into Richard Cockerill's departure from Leicester Tigers ongoing, speculation has already started over who will replace him at the East Midland's powerhouse...
It did not take long for the curse of Rugby World to strike, no sooner had we given Richard Cockerill a mention in the awards for 2016 than he was out of his job as director of rugby at Leicester. And no sooner had Cockerill exited stage left than the bookmakers were bombarding us with prices for his successor. Leicester could go in-house, could go English, or go for a big-hitter from overseas and they have tried then all in the past with various degrees of success. So who could get the job permanently? Rugby World has a look at some of the runners and riders but other brands of directors of rugby are available.
The former England coach heads the lists sent out by some of the odds-makers and with pretty good reason. After the dismal World Cup, which we won’t go over again here, Lancaster travelled round the world and had stints in cycling, football, American Football and coached in the Mitre 10 Cup in New Zealand. Then he surprised us all by pitching up at Leinster in September to help out Leo Cullen.
His role there has been more hands-on than it was with England, Cullen does all the so-called ‘big picture stuff’, but, as his family still live in Leeds, Lancaster could be ready for a return to the Premiership when his temporary deal finishes in Ireland. A decent bloke he might still be tainted by the World Cup fiasco in the eyes of people east of the Irish Sea.
The man in possession, having taking temporary charge, and seemingly the job is his if he wants it. Leicester are as good as out of Europe already, so he is under no pressure there, and any improvement in their current fifth place in the Premiership would bolster his credentials. On his second day as head honcho he told us he was just hoping to survive the next few weeks whilst the Tigers conduct a review of their coaching staff.
Former All Black Mauger knows all about the scene at Welford Road having played there between 2007 and 2010 before coaching with the Crusaders then joining Leicester as head coach, under Cockerill, last season. Some observers thought Cockerill might have been doing himself out of his post, it took a big man to admit he needed someone else in, and so it has proved, for the time being. Whether Mauger desires the main gig is another matter though.
No list of contenders for a coaching job would be complete without Jake White – his name pops up every time there is a vacancy anywhere from Toronto to Tasmania. Why wouldn’t it? He has got a World Cup win with South Africa, in 2007, on his CV and has been around the block with the Brumbies, the Sharks, Tonga and Montpellier. That last job might have dented his reputation a bit though – he is currently serving his notice in France and alienated the locals by packing the Top 14 outfit with South Africans.
White did not help himself by having a ruck with Montpellier legend François Trinh-Duc who went to Toulon and White dropped him for his last game after 13 years at the club. No teary farewell there for the fly-half. White might also have one eye on another post with the Springboks with Allister Coetzee under the cosh.
Another bloke who seems to pop up every time a coach gets the Spanish archer. He was linked with the job at Bristol when Andy Robinson got the bullet, they went for Pat Lam, but he is another man who knows a bit about what goes on inside the Tigers after being director of rugby there from 2008 and 2009 to sort out some family business.
Heyneke Meyer, who has extensive coaching experience with the Bulls and the Emerging Springboks, got the top job in South Africa in 2012 but got done for in 2015. The Boks took a hiding in the Rugby Championship and Meyer’s team lost to Japan in their World Cup opener in Brighton. He did get them to third place eventually before throwing in the towel and Meyer has been at a loose end since.
This would really put the cat amongst the pigeons and it would need much longer odds than the 6-1 available to persuade this column to have a punt on Baxter moving from Exeter. Along with Mark McCall at Saracens, Baxter is probably the best director of rugby in the Premiership but seeing him leave Sandy Park would be like seeing Cockerill leave Leicester. Oh yeah….that really did happen.
Baxter has produced a side to contend for the Premiership, having brought them up from the Championship, and seen a sprinkling of England players come through the ranks. He has had a taste of international rugby – he was an assistant coach on England’s tour of Argentina – when he was a hit with the players. Just can’t see it but stranger things have happened.
Andy Goode, another former Tiger, has already been banging the drum for Johnno to come out of hibernation and ruffle a few feathers at Welford Road. He was king of the rugby jungle when Leicester were kings of rugby and is probably England and Leicester’s greatest player with a pile of trophies, in 362 games for Tigers, and that World Cup win for England. Johnson had an ill-starred time as England manager when he was let down by the players, in the 2011 World Cup, and probably shouldn’t have taken the job but only did out of a sense of duty.
And don’t forget he won England’s last Six Nations title that year before the Eddie Jones revolution hit Twickenham. Johnson knows how to deal with the people upstairs at Welford Road and can’t be a corporate ambassador, and part-time cyclist, forever. He has got too much to give the game and, at 46, still has time on his side. It would be fascinating if he pitched up……. and what a story.
Quoted at 14-1 in one list the great bear of English rugby has already been treated badly enough by Leicester once to probably tell them to do one if they approached him. A legend as a player at Welford Road, he went on to coach Tigers to two European Cups and four Premiership titles before being given the boot in 2004. His crime then was that Leicester were struggling in the league, and that was not a shock considering they had supplied the guts of the England team that won the World Cup a couple of months later.
Richards, who was quite rightly appalled at the decision, asked for his memorabilia to be returned by the club. He has since had success at Harlequins, but that ended in disgrace, but is doing something at Newcastle where he has a decent crop of young players. Richards likes the life-style in the north-east – and a lot of hatchets would have to be buried for him to go back to Leicester.
Others mentioned in dispatches by the men with the satchels include….
Fabien Galthie, the former French scrum-half, and formerly of Montpellier; Clive Woodward, formerly of Leicester and fabled England World Cup-winning coach and Andy Robinson, formerly of Bristol and too much of a hero at Bath to be considered.
We reckon you would be burning £50 notes if you got involved having a bet on those three but Leicester do things their way….so maybe not. Pat Howard anyone?