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Cockerill backs new faces at Leicester Tigers to shine

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Richard Cockerill has seen it all before and the Leicester Tigers director of rugby insists some high-profile summer departures will not affect their challenge for another Aviva Premiership Rugby crown.

The Tigers fell short at the semi-final stage for the second season running in May before a number of players – including Geoff Parling and Julian Salvi, who both joined Exeter Chiefs – left in a transitional summer.

In all 19 players bid farewell to Welford Road, if you count the retirements of Louis Deacon, Anthony Allen and Brad Thorn, but Cockerill is not concerned.

Since taking over in 2005 the former England hooker has seen some legendary faces leave Leicester and the Tigers have still roared back to claim four Aviva Premiership Rugby titles in the past seven seasons.

And while a two-year wait is almost unheard of, Cockerill is adamant that new signings like the Kiwi duo Brendon O’Connor and Michael Fitzgerald will lift Leicester back to their former heights.

“Over the last decade we’ve lost lots of players, whether it’s Lewis Moody, Martin Castrogiovanni or Ben Kay – we just get on with it,” he said.

“When I signed Geoff Parling he was sat on the bench at Newcastle and he replaced Ben Kay and we did OK. Now we’re talking six years later about the same thing.

“We’ve signed Fitzgerald from the Chiefs in New Zealand who is a very good player, as is Brendon O’Connor, and Dom Barrow from Newcastle.

“People run their course and people move on and we have to financially rebalance the squad. We are not reliant on a Parling or a Salvi or anyone else.

“Leicester, of all clubs, aren’t reliant on individuals, it’s the sum of the parts we are more interested in.

“There was a lot said about the demise of Leicester Tigers but the reality is we were champions two years ago and we lost in the semi-finals. When push comes to shove we show our mettle.”

It is not just on the field where Leicester, and Cockerill, have mixed things up with former Tigers centre Aaron Mauger taking up the role as head coach and fellow Kiwi Steve Hansen the club’s new defence chief.

Leicester finally get their Aviva Premiership Rugby campaign underway away to London Irish on Sunday but Cockerill has been grateful for the extra break due to the Rugby World Cup.

“We’ve made changes to the coaching with Aaron and Steve coming in so that extra six weeks has been good to help them bed in, which has been great,” he added.”We’re in a good place.

“I have a very clear vision of where we sit in the coaching team and what we want to do moving forward, so it’s been good.

“We have different strengths. I know my strengths and I certainly know my weaknesses and I think we complement each other pretty well.

“We’re a team and we had something very similar when we won the competition two years ago with Matt O’Connor.”

The 2015-16 Aviva Premiership Rugby Season kicks off on 16 October. To see all of the fixtures click here.

 

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