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Banned Cockerill 'lacked respect'

Leicester director of rugby Richard Cockerill has been accused of lacking the sport's core values of "respect, discipline and sportsmanship" by the panel which banned him for nine matches.

Cockerill was suspended after being found guilty of "unprofessional and inappropriate" behaviour and for using "obscene" language in a touchline exchange with fourth official Stuart Terheege during the Aviva Premiership final on May 25.

The incident occurred after a tackle from Northampton lock Courtney Lawes on Toby Flood which Cockerill, who was concerned for the welfare of his injured fly-half, felt was worthy of a yellow card and referral to the television match official.

Cockerill twice approached Terheege. On the second occasion, he used "extensive foul language" and said he would instruct Leicester players to take matters into their own hands if they did not get more protection from the officials.

According to the disciplinary panel's report, written by chairman Antony Davies and published on Thursday, Cockerill said "words to the effect that he would be telling his players at half time to 'smash the c**** because they aren't getting any protection'."

Cockerill insisted the comment was made only for emphasis and that he would not actually have issued any such instruction. He also regretted in hindsight "the extent of language used". But the three-man disciplinary panel found it to be "an insidious and petulant act intended to threaten match officials into altering the way they officiated".

The panel concluded: "Giving evidence Mr Cockerill maintained that the use of the words "f***" and "f******" were justified in the circumstances.

"He also maintained that players who swear at referees need not be sent off or disciplined. His use of swear words which he did not deny did not, he maintained, make his actions aggressive, obscene, inappropriate or unprofessional. Certain of the game's core values, namely respect, discipline and sportsmanship, seem to us to have passed Mr Cockerill by."

Leicester are considering whether to appeal the suspension, which bars Cockerill from having any direct or indirect contact with his players or management for seven Premiership matches and two Heineken Cup games. The club issued a strongly worded statement on Wednesday, criticising the RFU's handling of the case.

"Leicester Tigers are disappointed with the Rugby Football Union's conduct in this matter," the statement said. "There are elements of the way in which they have conducted this case which, in our opinion, calls into question the new disciplinary structure and we will be taking this up with the RFU at the earliest opportunity."

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