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Richard Cockerill gets icy blast from ex-Tigers star

Leicester 25-21 Toulon

By Andrew Baldock

Leicester boss Richard Cockerill refused to be drawn into a war of words following an astonishing verbal outburst by ex-Tigers prop Martin Castrogiovanni after the Italian's Toulon side suffered a 25-21 European Champions Cup defeat at Welford Road.

Castrogiovanni, who left Leicester to join Toulon in 2013 after eight years in the east midlands, held court post-match after specifically asking to speak with English journalists.

And during an impassioned five-minute address, he did not hold back in his criticism of Tigers rugby director Cockerill.

"Cockers talks about the money, but I paid £100,000 from my own pocket to leave this club because I want to play rugby," Castrogiovanni said.

"I always love this club, and I wanted to clarify and talk face to face, which is something Cockers never does. I didn't have an opportunity to defend myself when I left.

"People were talking about money, but the real thing when I left the club was because you had (Dan) Cole and you had me.

"It was made to look like I had left the club for the money, but I left this club because I wanted to play rugby, and that's it.

"I never want to speak with Cockers any more. I am the kind of guy that if I hate you, I will say it to your face and I will never speak to you again. Love me or hate me, I don't hate anyone."

When Castrogiovanni's comments were put to Cockerill, the former England hooker said: "He was released from his contract. There was a transfer fee involved in that, which was dealt with between Simon Cohen (Leicester chief executive) and Toulon.

"Castro came here eight years ago and he has been fantastic for this club. I have got a lot of time for him. Sometimes in sport, things happen."

On the field, fly-half Owen Williams kicked 20 points to see the Tigers home, booting six penalties and converting lock Brad Thorn's 19th-minute try.

But Leicester were made to sweat following an impressive Toulon revival from 13-0 adrift as wings Bryan Habana and Drew Mitchell claimed touchdowns, while fly-half Nicolas Sanchez landed three penalties and a conversion.

The reigning European champions still top their group, courtesy of a losing bonus point.

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