Chat with coaches lifted Dan Cole out of post-World Cup slump
Dan Cole only hit rock bottom some two months after England's World Cup failure, and had to be pulled out of his slump by Leicester's coaches and Eddie Jones.
Leicester's scrum cornerstone has admitted he had failed to appreciate the depth to which he had sunk after England became the worst-performing host nation in World Cup history in October.
Leicester coaches Richard Cockerill and Aaron Mauger and new England boss Jones sat Cole down after the Tigers' 31-16 win at Munster on December 12 and detailed where he was falling short.
The 28-year-old has now hailed that "almost Eureka moment" for transforming his season: after England's Six Nations Grand Slam, now Leicester face Racing 92 in Nottingham for a place in the European Champions Cup final.
"In all honesty it probably wasn't until December I realised how hard all that had hit," said Cole, ahead of Leicester's Champions Cup semi-final.
"When you get back from the World Cup you just want to play rugby, plod through, plod through, plod through.
"And it wasn't until December time that Richard Cockerill, Aaron Mauger and Eddie Jones spoke to me. Then I realised I was in a bit of a slump.
"You sit down, take a bit of a step back, look at it and make adjustments.
"They spoke about wanting a change in what I was doing, to be involved more and all that.
"At the time you think you're doing alright but then you look at your game, from that point of view, and I realised I could do more, could be quicker off the floor.
"Going away with England to the Six Nations after that and speaking to the other boys, a lot of them had a similar point, an almost Eureka moment; a realisation that this is the bottom and I can start again.
"We played Munster away at Thomond, we won, but it was after that I had a meeting with Cockers and Mauger.
"Cockers sat me down, showed me clips of the game and said 'you can be better than this'. And I thought 'yeah I can'.
"You probably know it deep down but it's not until it's actually told to you that you fully appreciate.
"That's when I started making changes, making a fresh start."
England's disastrous World Cup challenge was ended just 16 days into the tournament, with the 33-13 defeat to eventual finalists Australia at Twickenham on October 3.
England's full coaching staff paid the price by losing their jobs, with boss Stuart Lancaster unable to harness previous positive feeling into landmark victories.
Cole now admits that in hindsight rushing back to the safety of Welford Road and immediate action with Leicester probably backfired.
"You're straight back into it and as a rugby player you think the best way to get over something is playing and playing and playing," said Cole.
"You don't know at the time, but the World Cup was still going on, you see people in the street, it's everywhere you go.
"So no matter how much you try to avoid things, you can't.
"You can't avoid it, especially with people's livelihoods on the line and things. Across the board it probably had a negative effect on a lot of people without them actively knowing about it."
Now relishing England and Leicester's parallel resurgences, Cole hailed former All Blacks centre Mauger for expanding the Tigers' game in his head coaching role this term.
But Cole also paid tribute to rugby director Cockerill's open-minded approach in tasking Mauger with that job in the first place.
"Leicester's always had good forwards and a good set-piece but we've lacked outside that," said Cole.
"When Leicester's been successful we've had a Pat Howard, Darren Gibson, Matt O'Connor, Aaron Mauger coming in and expanding that.
"You need more to your game than just scrum, lineout and breakdown.
"We found out in the last couple of years, scraping to third, we weren't happy with how we were playing.
"Cockers understoood that we needed a bit more than we had and Mauger's brought it.
"Between you and me Cockers is actually quite smart, but you'd better star that word out!
"There's a reason Cockers is director of rugby of Leicester.
"A bad year for us is losing in a Premiership final, and a good year is winning trophies.
"Cockers has done that, and there's a reason he's here and been successful.
"I don't think he makes the same mistake twice, we've had to learn and adapt, and he's trusted guys like Mauger to come in and change things up."