Slater: Don’t blame Cockerill


Published: Thursday 9th October 2014 by The News Editor

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Leicester captain Ed Slater believes Richard Cockerill must not become the scapegoat for the injury-hit Tigers’ early Aviva Premiership season struggles.

England lock Slater slammed those “looking for problems around the club” as seeking needless “knee-jerk” reactions to Leicester’s three successive league losses that have compounded their more than 20-strong injury list.

Rugby director Cockerill shielded all players from media duties at Leicester’s weekly press conference, but sidelined skipper Slater has since launched a passionate defence of his boss.

Fit-again Manu Tuilagi and Mathew Tait will aim to help Leicester avoid falling to four consecutive defeats for the first time since October 2003 in Friday night’s Welford Road clash with Harlequins.

“I think it’s easy to find excuses and it’s easy for people to look at Cocker and blame Cocker for what’s happened,” said Slater.

“But the reality of the situation is that as a playing squad we haven’t been playing well enough.

“So it’s all our responsibility, and the response to Cocker and the things that are being said, it’s almost similar to football in a way – we’ve lost three games.

“It’s below our expectations, we’ve been in difficult positions before and we’ve got to trust ourselves to come through it.

“You can’t produce knee-jerk reactions after three games. I’ve said before that the club’s got a brilliant framework, it’s something that’s served them well for a really long time. For questions to be asked of that is wrong.

“First and foremost as players we’ve got to look at our performance on the pitch, and it hasn’t been good enough.

“Looking for problems around the club isn’t the solution, and we’re confident that we need to pull together and take some responsibility in how we’re performing.”

Harlequins centre George Lowe is primed for his first action in a year after serious neck trouble, taking a seat on the visitors’ bench at Welford Road.

England centre Tuilagi is back in Leicester action after missing three weeks with groin trouble, while Tait has recovered from a neck problem.

Michele Rizzo and Brad Thorn will make their home debuts against Quins, while prop Marcos Ayerza takes a seat on the bench after completing Rugby Championship duties with Argentina.

Slater faces a personal fight to return to action before the end of the season following knee ligament repair surgery.

The 26-year-old has the likes of club and England team-mates Tom Youngs, Geoff Parling and Tom Croft for company in Leicester’s startling injury ranks.

The Leicester-born lock set his own troubles aside to defend Cockerill’s leadership however, suggesting any questions around his tenure are premature.

Leicester lost five of their first six games in the 2011-12 season owing to Rugby World Cup absentees and still finished second in the table before reaching that term’s Premiership final.

Slater said Leicester know all about pulling through troubling times.

“They way Cocker sees it is that he’s accountable and everything flows back to him, but that doesn’t take pressure off us,” said Slater.

“The results are extremely difficult to take. As players when you play for a club like Leicester, the expectations are extremely high and that doesn’t change overnight.

“After three losses the pressure is massive, now Cocker will try to take the brunt of that because I think he sees that as his job.

“But certainly behind the scenes the players accept they are the guys on the pitch and responsible for the result in the end.”

Published: Thursday 9th October 2014 by The News Editor

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