Leicester Tigers director of rugby Richard Cockerill may have had nine weeks of rest on match days after serving out his ban for abusing officials but his job has not got any easier in his absence.
On the evidence of yesterday’s (Sunday) loss to London Wasps it could be a tough month for the defending champions who look a bit weak without their big name players.
Cockerill took a squad missing 17 players either through injury or international call up and it showed at a blustery Adams Park where storm St Jude made line-out throwing almost impossible and kicking a test of character.
Wasps handled the conditions the better, largely because of the the impressive display by former Tiger fly-half Andy Goode who rolled back the years with a man of the match performance, scoring 17 points with the boot and setting up Christian Wade with a looping pass in the 22-12 win.
Tigers summer signing Owen Williams scored the away side’s 12 points in his first start for the club and showed enough potential to excite watching fans but he was well and truly outplayed by Goode, who won five league titles and two Heineken Cup titles with Leicester.
Leicester got themselves into a position to score time after time but continually faltered at the critical moment, knocking on as they bombarded the line, losing control at the base of the scrum or throwing unsuccessful 50/50 passes.
The pack was bolstered by the return of Marcos Ayerza, back from playing in The Rugby Championship with Argentina, but sadly the all action prop will soon be called back to represent his country when they play England, Wales and Italy.
The already weakened front row is also likely to lose Leicester’s biggest improved player, Samoan prop Logovi’i Mulipola, who is likely to be recalled for the islanders tour against Ireland, Georgia and the French Barbarians.
The call-ups leave Leicester short in the front-row to add to their problems at fly-half, and centre where the number of options are running thin.
To make it worse it is a busy month of domestic rugby while the autumn internationals are taking place. Next up for Tigers are Harlequins at home in the league, Ospreys and Worcester Warriors in the LV= Cup and then the struggling London Irish and Gloucester Rugby in the Aviva Premiership.
The loss to London Wasps drops Leicester to fifth behind the rampaging Exeter and vastly improving Bath who will both be difficult to dislodge from a play-off position.
In other news
As if Leicester’s resources were not stretched enough a semi-final place is also up for grabs in the Aviva Premiership ‘A’ League tonight (Monday) when Tigers Development XV host Sale Jets at Welford Road, kick off 7.30pm.
Leicester go into the final round of the second string competition in third place in the Northern Conference behind Northampton Wanderers and Gloucester United who face each other tonight.
With the top two teams progressing, a win over Sale would almost certainly see them qualify for the semi-finals. However, any victory will almost certainly have to be achieved with largely academy players.