Richard Cockerill was wearing a Red Rose again on Sunday and it just looked right. The former Test hooker will bring a welcome dose of native passion to the England management team.
Eddie Jones has relied on foreign assistants in recent years, so the arrival of a patriot synonymous with Leicester for so long represents a reconnection with the heart and soul of the English game. ‘I’m a proud Englishman and to get the opportunity to be part of the national team set-up is fantastic,’ he said.
A short training camp in south west London this week will allow Cockerill to establish a rapport with the leading players and Matt Proudfoot, the South African he will assist in developing a fearsome pack. It will also allow him to become accustomed to taking orders again — although he quipped that he is well versed in doing what he’s told at home.
Richard Cockerill will bring a dose of native passion to the England management team
Asked what is expected of him and how he would fit in, Cockerill said: ‘Eddie wants a fresh pair of eyes; different eyes. He wants me to bring my personality and my drive. I’ve always been able to get combative forward packs and drive mentality and I think that’s probably appealed to him.
‘When I spoke to Eddie about the role and what part there was for me, I accepted where I would sit in the hierarchy. I’ve got no problem with it — Eddie is a very experienced coach who knows his own mind. He wants opinion and he wants different views but ultimately he is the boss and he will have the final say.’
But Cockerill is a strong character with top-dog pedigree, so he is bound to make himself heard, which might just reinvigorate Jones’s regime. It will also put the newcomer in position to come through as a possible successor after the next World Cup.
But when asked about that scenario, he said: ‘I’ve not even thought about it. I want to get this bit done.
‘I have to prove I can cut the mustard at this level before I start thinking about other things.’
He is very likely to do just that. Cockerill has a fine track record for driving major improvements in teams. England will benefit from his passion.
The former England forward is a strong character with top-dog pedigree
Promising start to the Premiership season
The Premiership season has started in pulsating fashion, but some crowds have been disappointing — not least in Coventry on Saturday where just 8,500 spectators watched Wasps dismantle Bristol.
If Lee Blackett’s team carry on in a similar vein, it surely won’t be long before the stands are packed again.
The Bears have been alarmingly listless in losing twice so far. They need Semi Radradra back to add cutting edge and Kyle Sinckler to add high-class clout up front.
Leicester’s re-emergence is gathering momentum and their showdown against Saracens at Welford Road next Saturday promises to be a telling early-season marker.
All in all, the league has started as a vibrant showcase of positive intent, which is so refreshing after the turgid South Africa v Lions Test series.
It’s just a shame the end of the deal for Channel 5 to show highlights means the Premiership has no terrestrial TV presence for the first time in years.
There was timely good news in Newport for Wales head coach Wayne Pivac yesterday, as Gareth Anscombe landed five shots at goal out of five on his first league appearance for the Ospreys since a two-year absence with a knee injury. The 30-year-old propelled his region to victory over the Dragons and showed that he could avert a No 10 crisis late next month when the All Blacks come to Cardiff.
Pivac saw Cardiff pair Rhys Priestland and Jarrod Evans go off injured on Friday night and he won’t be able to call upon Premiership-based playmakers Dan Biggar and Callum Sheedy for the out-of-window Test.
Leicester’s promising start to the season is set to examined against Saracens
Instant impact: Rookie hooker Dan Frost, on debut, burst past Bristol tacklers to touch down superbly for Wasps.
Deadly strike: Adam Radwan scorched through Bath’s defence with ease to score for Newcastle.
Progress: Sara Cox, the first female to referee a Premiership match, ran Harlequins v Worcester with real authority.
Composed finish: George Furbank nailed a tough penalty 30 seconds from time to clinch Northampton’s win at Exeter.
Familiar soundtrack: It felt like normality to hear donkey chants from the Shed at Kingsholm on Friday night.
On Saturday, the world champion Springboks’ third successive defeat in the Rugby Championship — in their 100th Test against New Zealand — will have created fresh pangs of regret for Warren Gatland and his beaten Lions.
Week after week, South Africa’s limitations have been exposed. They were there for the taking in Cape Town but the tourists blew a golden chance with tactical negativity.
That was clear when Iain Henderson became the latest squad member to break ranks and admit they had played into the Boks’ hands.
South Africa’s third successive defeat in the Rugby Championship will have created fresh pangs of regret for Warren Gatland and his beaten Lions
The Last Word
This column will be opposed to an RFU bid for the 2031 World Cup to be staged in England. It is too soon. The 2015 tournament is still fresh in the memory — uncomfortably so for the host nation.
Rugby’s powers-that-be must treat their marquee tournament as an asset to be shared far and wide, not just alternated between France and England to maximise revenue.
Let it go to Argentina, to Italy and back to South Africa, after Australia take another turn in 2027. Only then should market forces see the World Cup brought back here.