No one feels Leicester are too good to go down – Tigers have lost their way

Leicester’s rapid turnover of coaches has left the players and club with an identity crisis as they battle Premiership relegation for the first time

When Leicester sacked Dean Richards at the beginning of 2004, the reaction was seismic. Not only had 23 years at the club as a player and the director of rugby been abruptly terminated but the Tigers had won four Premiership titles and two European Cups under the former England No 8 who paid for his job after two league finishes the club would now happily take, sixth and fifth.

Leicester sacking the man at the top now creates more of a reaction for its timing than its occurrence, Matt O’Connor after one match this season, Richard Cockerill halfway through the 2016-17 campaign. If the decision to remove Richards were vindicated with the next nine seasons culminating in Premiership finals at Twickenham, five of which were won, recent dismissals have tended to accelerate decline rather than halt it.

Leicester lost 14 matches during Richards’s four title years from 1998-99, a figure that on form they will at least match this season having been beaten 12 times in the Premiership with four rounds to go. They are at Newcastle on Friday night, their first eight-pointer in the Premiership.

A year ago, the sides met with something at stake at Welford Road. It was a place in the top four, rather than the Championship, a position that had been Leicester’s since the season after they sacked Richards. He returned to Welford Road with Newcastle and they duly won there in the league for the first time since 1997 to make the play-offs.

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