Inside the Tigers’ Den - Castrogiovanni turns the air blue
Sunday night was one of those great European nights of rugby to savour. It was tough, close and enthralling to watch. It should be a night that all Leicester fans remember for years to come, because it is not often you beat the defending Europeans champion, but for most it will now be remember for the most remarkable post match interview ever heard in the era of professional rugby.
Tigers beat Toulon 25-21 on Sunday, thanks to a try from the evergreen 39-year-old Brad Thorn and 20 points from the boot of Owen Williams.
But the result has been overshadowed by the comments of former Tigers favourite Martin Castrogiovanni, who started at prop of Toulon. His post-match press conference where he vented his upset over the nature of his departure from the club he had been a star of for eight years will go down in sporting infamy.
Castrogiovanni was particularly critical of Tigers director of rugby Richard Cockerill who got both barrels from the foul mouthed Italian international. He said: “I thought f****** Leicester were f****** amateur. He was saying that people go for the money but he has a lot of f****** squad players who get paid as well. I paid my own f****** money to leave this club. I don’t need the money to play rugby. I love this game and I used to love this club - I still love this club, but when people are up to here in water, they talk this talk but don’t walk the walk.
“I never want to speak with Cockers any more. I am the kind of guy that if I hate you, if you are not clear with me or if you have been a c***, how you say in English, I never want to speak to you any more. That’s it. That’s how I am. I am not fake. If I hate you, I say in your face and I will never speak to you again. Love me or hate me,I don’t hate anyone. Peace and love. I just don’t like c****.”
Castrogiovanni made 149 appearances during seven seasons with Leicester but towards the end of his time at the club he lost his starting spot to England prop Dan Cole.
“I never had the opportunity to defend myself when I left,” Castrogiovanni added. “People talked about this s*** and money. Cockers talks about the money, but the real reason I left this club is because you have Cole and you have me. Cole paid gets paid half the money from the RFU and I am foreign.
“What the f*** you want? You have a good f****** tighthead prop playing for England and a hairy fat Italian. The thing is that they made it look like I went for the money but I paid £100,000 from my pocket to leave this club because I want to play rugby. That’s it.
“I always love this club and I wanted to clarify and talk face to face, which is something Cockers never does. I think in the last few years people are getting sacked and this club was not like that before.
“They used to respect people, now they act like nothing is going on. That is not from the club, that is from the guys in charge. Everything you do in your life - good or bad - will come back to you and they sack people who have been at this club for 17 years. When I get to this club it was all about the shirt and the badge.”
The prop’s comments are now being investigated by the EPCR Disciplinary Officer.
While the Italian’s comments are rude and ill advised in the age of PR media trained athletes it is refreshing to hear someone give an honest and passionate opinion and it seems harsh if he is punished for saying them. Let’s not get too upset about his outburst of foul language. Yes it’s not within the spirit of the game but if you go down to any lower-league football club on a Saturday after noon you will hear swearing just as bad.
On the field the 23 men chosen to defend the Leicester badge did a pretty good job and caught the esteemed visitors cold with their fierce intensity.
If the ball had bounced differently Anthony Allen could have been in for a try when he hacked through but Leicester only had to wait 19 minutes to celebrate.
This time Toulon failed to deal with another loose ball and Tom Youngs was first to react, diving on the ball and the popping it up to the charging Brad Thorn who showed great strength to crash over for his first try since joining in the summer.
Leicester have not felt the benefit of some of their summer signings with the likes of Seremaia Bai and Christian Loamanu still injured but Thorn has been a stunning addition to the side.
There were plenty of positive performances on the night. Man of the match Owen Williams once again showed incredible nerve with his kicking, slotting his final penalty of the match from inside his own half.
The only real blip for the young fly-half was the poor miss-pass he threw which was picked off by Bryan Habana and run in for a Toulon try to get the multi-million pound spending French champions back into the match.
But his performances of late have been so good that there is talk about him finally breaking into the Wales squad however that could spell trouble for Leicester as there are suggestions that he may be lured back to one of the Welsh regions as part of one of the WRU’s joint contract deals.
Ben Youngs has run himself back into his very best form and was a constant nuisance to the Toulon defence.
He certainly added something extra to the Leicester back line who benefited from being on the front foot for much of the match thanks to the dominant scrummaging of the Tigers pack which fared well despite their fearsome opponents. However the celebrations will be short lived at the club as they have the incredibly difficult task of trying to get a result at the Stade Felix Mayol on Saturday.