Shaky Tigers feel foun­da­tions of their past suc­cess crum­bling be­neath them

Tom Cary looks at what has gone wrong at Le­ices­ter, who face Rac­ing 92 to­day af­ter six suc­ces­sive de­feats

The Sunday Telegraph - Sport - - Rugby Union -

COACH­ING

Any club who have had four lead­ers in less than two years are nec­es­sar­ily go­ing to have less-than-sta­ble foun­da­tions. Richard Cock­er­ill was sacked as direc­tor of rugby on Jan 2, 2017, and since then Aaron Mauger, Matt O’Con­nor and now Ge­or­dan Mur­phy have all taken charge of the first team.

Mur­phy, for whom this is a first ex­pe­ri­ence of be­ing head coach, only has the job on an in­terim ba­sis, and there are whis­pers that se­nior play­ers would like to see the Ir­ish­man add to his coach­ing team. Jonny May told The Tele­graph this week he did not be­lieve coach­ing was the is­sue, stand­ing by Mur­phy – and his team of Mark Bakewell, Brett Dea­con and Boris Stankovich – al­though he hinted that view was not nec­es­sar­ily shared by all of his team-mates.

“I 100 per cent think Ge­ordie’s the man for the job,” May said. “This is new for him. He’s come in and prob­a­bly in­her­ited a team that wasn’t good enough last year. I per­son­ally think the coaches pro­vide us with bril­liant mes­sages and ev­ery­thing we need. Maybe some play­ers don’t.”

DE­FENCE

Whether they do or do not, de­fence is clearly a ma­jor area of concern. Le­ices­ter have lost nine of their 13 fix­tures since Mur­phy took over and have con­ceded a whop­ping 39 tries al­ready this sea­son. “It’s cer­tainly not the qual­ity of per­son­nel, is it?” May said when asked where Le­ices­ter were go­ing wrong. “We’re con­ced­ing too many points in de­fence, aren’t we?”

Bris­tol found it far too easy to pick them off last week, and while that was partly be­cause they had an ex­tra man, there were also po­si­tional lapses, with Le­ices­ter’s en­tire front row de­fend­ing to­gether in the mid­field at one point. Even May was skinned on the out­side, by Luke Mo­ra­han. “It wasn’t a fine mo­ment for me,” he con­ceded.

For­mer Great Bri­tain rugby league player De­nis Betts and Ospreys de­fence guru Brad Davis have both been men­tioned as pos­si­ble re­cruit­ments, with Mur­phy say­ing he has carte blanche from the board to add to his staff.

CON­FI­DENCE

Not ev­ery­one be­lieves de­fence is the prob­lem. Matt Toomua, the Aus­tralia in­ter­na­tional who joined the club in

LIGHT­WEIGHT UP FRONT?

May de­nied per­son­nel was the is­sue. And with 284 Eng­land caps in their start­ing XV last week­end, it is tempt­ing to agree with him. But on closer in­spec­tion, that statis­tic is mis­lead­ing. Le­ices­ter’s back line – Ben Youngs, Ge­orge Ford, Toomua, East­mond, Manu Tuilagi, May, Jonah Holmes etc – cer­tainly has plenty of X fac­tor. In­deed, it is ar­guably the best in the Premier­ship. But they need some ball to play with.

Tigers’ once-fear­some pack no longer has the same bite it did when it was led by Mar­tin John­son. Dan Cole and Tom Youngs ac­count for more than 100 of those afore­men­tioned Eng­land caps but both have been dropped by their coun­try.

In fact, there are not many firstchoice in­ter­na­tion­als up front. El­lis Genge re­turned last week­end af­ter un­der­go­ing knee surgery in the sum­mer and the re­turn of “the Baby Rhino” could help to get Le­ices­ter’s pack back on the front foot.

TEAM SPIRIT

The re­view process fol­low­ing the Bris­tol de­feat was painful, with ev­ery­one hav­ing their say. The

Bench­mark: Manu Tuilagi, Ge­orge Ford and Ben Youngs suf­fer on the side­lines as Le­ices­ter are put to the sword at Bris­tol last Satur­day, suf­fer­ing a sixth de­feat in a row in all competitions un­der in­terim coach Ge­or­dan Mur­phy (left)

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