Leicester Tigers director of rugby Richard Cockerill has left his position with the English Aviva Premiership side following a difficult start to the season.
The Tigers sit in fifth in the table, 15 points behind leaders Wasps. They have also struggled to find any consistency in Europe, with two wins and two defeats thus far in the Champions Cup. They've lost their last two Premiership games, including at home to champions Saracens on New Year's Day.
"It is with great sadness and regret that I leave my position as director of rugby with immediate effect," Cockerill said in a statement released this afternoon by the club.
"I still believe that I am the right person to lead the team at this present time but respect the Board's decision to make change as they see fit in the best interests of the club.
"I wish to thank the club and in particular Simon Cohen and Peter Tom for giving me the opportunity to lead this great club and the support they have given me in the last seven years.
"I arrived back at the club in 2004 as an academy coach and leave as DOR with a record that speaks for itself and stands up against any in club rugby in the world.
"This club has made me the person and the coach I am today and I will never forget what they have done for me.
"I wish Tom Youngs and the team the very best for the future and will miss being part of the Tigers Family."
Owen Farrell crosses as Saracens beat Leicester on New Year's Day, it was the home side's second defeat on the bounce in the Aviva Premiership. Image: Richard Sellers PA Wire/PA Images
Following Leicester's 31-10 defeat at Exeter on Christmas Eve, Cockerill had urged teams not to cave to public outcry and indulge in rash sackings.
"There’s casualties of this season in coaching set-ups, we had Scott Hansen here, Alex King and Andy Robinson, there’s been speculation around David Humphreys at Gloucester with new ownership. It’s becoming more commonplace isn’t it?
"The reality is that if we lose two or three games, I’m assured that the reaction on social media indicates I’m not overly popular at times. That’s life. Supporters demand results, and then your head on a stake when you don’t get them."
Cockerill became director of rugby back in 2010 following Leicester's triumph in the Premiership, a feat which saw them defend their crown. The team reached the Premiership final again in 2011 and 2012, as well as winning the Anglo-Welsh Cup in 2011/12, and the team collected a record 10th league title with victory in May 2013.
Tigers chairman Peter Tom CBE said: "We thank Richard for his loyal and dedicated service as a player, coach and director of rugby. He has a great passion for the club and for the game of rugby, and has shared in many massive occasions with the Tigers.
"The club always has aspirations to contest the major honours in the game and that remains unchanged but the board believes this is the right time to make a change."
Cockerill joined the club as a player in 1992 and became a member of the 'ABC Club' front row with Graham Rowntree and Darren Garforth, making 262 appearances, winning five league titles, two domestic cups and back-to-back European Cups. He also earned 27 caps for England.
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