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Axed Cockerill insists he could have guided troubled Tigers to future glory

By Jack Austin

Richard Cockerill maintained he was "still the right person to lead the team" after being sacked yesterday as Leicester Tigers director of rugby.

The former hooker, who played 262 times for the Tigers before joining the coaching staff in 2004, became director of rugby in 2010.

Cockerill led the club to back-to-back Premiership titles in 2009 and 2010 while head coach but a downturn in form has led to his dismissal, with Leicester currently 15 points off the leaders and facing being dumped out of the European Cup after a record 38-0 defeat to Munster on December 10.

They have lost five of their 12 games this season and the New Year's Day defeat at home to title-chasing Saracens proved to be one loss too many for Cockerill, who has spent 23 of the last 25 years of his career with the club.

In a statement, Tigers chairman Peter Tom said: "We thank Richard for his loyal and dedicated service as a player, coach and director of rugby. He has a great passion for the club and for the game of rugby, and has shared in many massive occasions with the Tigers.

"The club always has aspirations to contest the major honours in the game and that remains unchanged but the board believes this is the right time to make a change."

The 46-year-old was defiant in a press conference last week and insisted he should only be judged at the end of the season and not now, calling rugby a more patient sport and urging against knee-jerk decisions.

He hinted the sport was in danger of shifting towards a sacking mentality similar to that in football, with Bristol director of rugby Andy Robinson having already been dismissed this season.

Cockerill, who arrived at Welford Road as a player in 1992 and won five league titles, reiterated in a statement that he still believes he is the right man to lead Leicester.

He said: "It is with great sadness and regret that I leave my position as director of rugby with immediate effect. I still believe that I am the right person to lead the team at this present time but respect the Board's decision to make change as they see fit in the best interests of the club.

"I wish to thank the club and in particular Simon Cohen and Peter Tom for giving me the opportunity to lead this great club and the support they have given me in the last seven years," he added.

"I arrived back at the club in 2004 as an academy coach and leave as DOR with a record that speaks for itself and stands up against any in club rugby in the world.

"This club has made me the person and the coach I am today and I will never forget what they have done for me.

"I wish Tom Youngs and the team the very best for the future and will miss being part of the Tigers family."

Head coach Aaron Mauger will take over on an interim basis.

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