Belfast Telegraph

Friday 24 October 2014

Selection dilemma for Lancaster

Richard Cockerill

Leicester rugby director Richard Cockerill admitted he does not envy England head coach Stuart Lancaster's task of selecting his team to face Wales on Saturday.

Internationals Manu Tuilagi and Toby Flood played big roles as Leicester avenged their Premiership play-off final defeat at Twickenham last May and ended a Saracens unbeaten home record which dated back to October 2010.

Cockerill said: "Manu had a long lay-off with injury but he's now played two 80 minutes and was still charging for the line at the end, while Floody had a torrid time in last week's disappointing defeat at Exeter and showed his quality with those penalties. England have done well with the guys they have, so how they may or may not fit in those two is, happily, not my problem."

He added: "Manu is a very good lad, very professional. But he's also 20. You make wrong calls when you are growing up and you learn from them. Manu is a lad growing up who is also a very exciting player."

Cockerill admitted he was down to his final unchewed nail as Tigers went through 26 phases to pinch victory with skipper Geordan Murphy's drop-goal.

He added: "I was desperate for the lads to go for the drop - probably about 14 times before Geordan finally delivered. And I think it was apt that he should score the winner. It was Geordan who sat the players down in midweek and told them what is expected of Leicester players after last week's performance.

"He then made the call to take the drop-goal and did what all great Leicester players do, he led from the front. We could easily have lost - it felt like the Twickenham final, phase after phase - only this time we got the rub of the green, this time we achieved a very good win against a very good side."

Saracens rugby director Mark McCall took defeat on the chin and refused to use the fact that they were without 10 senior players through England duty and injury as an excuse.

He said: "It was a tight, very close game as we tend to have against Leicester. I remember when we won a similar game at Welford Road because Billy Twelvetrees missed a last-gasp penalty. There were shades there also of last May's play-off final against Leicester at Twickenham, only this time they got the crucial score with the last kick.

"My own sense of disappointment concerns the fact that we were on their line 30 seconds from time and we needed to be more clever in that sort of situation. But I also give credit to Leicester for their ability to work the ball through the phases, despite our tremendous defence, keep it alive and score the winning goal.

Nightlife galleries

More

Latest Sport News

Stats Centre