I had a bit of a rant about Cockerill a while ago in the wake of his clear abuse of match officials during the Tigers v Saints final, and he rightly received a 9 match suspension. Half a year on and he’s at it all over again in the wake of Tigers win over Sale last weekend.
It is one thing to subtly imply some degree of frustration with officials decisions or raise an eyebrow at the sometimes ‘unorthodox’ tactics opposing teams may bring to Welford Road, but his overt criticism of match referee Matthew Carley was another step well beyond the pale and, interestingly, he has since attempted to deny that he was in any way criticising Carley.
Even worse though, and I speak as a one-eyed, biased Sale supporter, were his accusations that Sale were cheating at scrum time. As someone who only ever played at full-back, I have never professed to understand the dark arts of the scrum in any of its evolutionary disguises, and I am, therefore, inclined to defer to the opinion of someone with the appropriate commentary credentials such as Brian Moore, former England international hooker and a serious intellect to boot. He commented in The Telegraph on December 30th:-
“There is no offence of not taking the hit or engagement or coming together or anything else. That a former international hooker does not know this …… is risible.
The RFU and Premiership Rugby should not tolerate this seemingly ineluctable diatribe against anything he does not like, especially when factually incorrect”
Now Steve Diamond is no shrinking violet either, although he has a tendency towards slightly more diplomatic ways of getting his views across but, in the face of such accusations, was prompted to respond in kind by stating, amongst other things, the dreaded secret which is no secret but is that which is rarely spoken of (sounds like Harry Potter!):-
“He can bleat as much as he wants. When you operate on £4 million not, maybe £6 or £7 million like they do here, then they can come into the real world.”
Yes, the cat is out of the bag. A reminder to certain teams, mainly at the top end of the table, the Salary Cap is exactly that. A CAP, not the starting point and the RFU surely cannot not know this.
Anyway, back to the plot. With Leicester hovering in slightly unfamiliar league table territory, is Cockers starting to feel the sort of pressure that other coaches/DoR’s such as Dean Ryan manage to cope with without blaming everyone else? Anything less than another long ban and substantial fine will be another demonstration of weakness from officialdom. The potentially unfortunate consequence though may be that Dimes also ends up on a misconduct charge.
On other matters, with the half-way point of the season now reached, what does everybody think of the new scrum engagement rules? (Sorry Richard, you are not allowed an opinion on this one!) My view is that, other than reducing the potential long term impact damage on the front row, we don’t seem to have made any great progress in the Northern hemisphere in terms of collapses, wheeling etc – not forgetting the indefensible tactic of backing out of the ‘push’(couldn’t resist that one). In too many games the engagement sequence still seems to take too long with the referee waiting for complete square-on stability before giving the ‘Yes 9’ go-ahead. The scrum is such a core part of the game that I would never want to see it reduced to the technical status of Rugby League ‘scrums’ purely to keep the action flowing but I have no idea where the authorities can go next. All suggestions would be welcome ‘cos I don’t think it’s working terribly well yet.
And finally, refereeing consistency, and I may even have a tiny grain of sympathy for Cockers here.
Firstly, whatever happened to putting the ball in straight at the scrum and bringing back proper hooking? I have watched referees penalise deviations of probably no more than 5 degrees from straight down the middle to allowing an almost 45 degree put-in go unpunished. It doesn’t help when some scrum halves are standing at a clear angle to the scrum almost in line with the opposing props or even the second row in extreme cases. If the law says straight, let’s keep it (fairly) straight, or are officials aware of how much time they are losing when scrums break down and are simply keen to see the ball whipped out and away?
Secondly, what constitutes a tip-tackle. Apparently, if it’s Matt Hopper on Jason Shoemark, that isn’t a serious offence but, if it’s jack Nowell on Matt Hopper it is. As the Yanks say ‘go figure’.