Belfast Telegraph

Sunday 23 November 2014

Wounded Tigers ready for start

Richard Cockerill's side are looking to retain the title
Richard Cockerill's side are looking to retain the title

Leicester begin the defence of their Aviva Premiership crown against Worcester on Sunday nursing a deep sense of injustice fuelled by director of rugby Richard Cockerill.

Cockerill has reinforced the Tigers' siege mentality before the season has even started, raging against his ban for swearing, the British and Irish Lions for returning Ben Youngs and Manu Tuilagi injured, a high tackle on his captain Toby Flood and the trialling of new scrum laws.

The former England hooker has been denied matchday involvement with the Tigers for nine games until October 9 after swearing at an official in May's Premiership final, but refuses to alter his outlook too radically.

"I probably won't temper what I do much in the future. My language maybe, but it depends how politically correct you want to be," he said.

"It depends how the Rugby Football Union want to drive it, but they've set the agenda and benchmark with that punishment for me and you'd expect them to draw the same line for everyone.

"The suspension is frustrating for me, but Paul Burke, Geordan Murphy and Richard Blaze are very capable assistant coaches.

"We have a strong squad with some big leaders, so it's unlikely to affect us, although it will affect me for sure.

"That's the idea of it - it's a punishment for me, I have to take it on the chin and crack on."

Leicester won their first Premiership title since 2010 when they defeated Northampton at Twickenham in May, but Cockerill denies their status makes them a more prized scalp than usual.

"It was great to win it, but every season it starts again. We want to build on it, but we give the trophy back and you start the season again," Cockerill said.

"We're the champions, but every time we go anywhere people are expecting us to win anyway. We're their biggest game of the season and we're always under that pressure.

"Nothing has changed for us, it's just another season. We'll battle as hard as we can and see if we can win it again."

Leicester half-backs David Mele and Ryan Lamb make their debuts with Youngs and Tuilagi on the bench despite having shoulder problems.

Flood is out on medical advice after being knocked out against Ulster last weekend, so Louis Deacon leads the team.

Worcester give debuts to summer signings flanker Jonathan Thomas, fly-half Ignacio Mieres, scrum-half Jeremy Su'a, lock Mike Williams and prop Jeremy Becasseau.

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