A titanic force in English and European rugby, Leicester face the unthinkable prospect of relegation from the Premiership, where they have never finished in the lower half, after slumping to third bottom just five points above basement boys Newcastle with five games left.
Murphy has described the situation as “horrific” but Welford Road legend Cockerill, who was sacked as Leicester coach before reviving his career in the Scottish capital two years ago said, while sad to see the current plight, no club is too big to go down.
“Of course I am [sad about it]. I was there a long time and they’re having a difficult time.” said the former England hooker. “But they make their choices and they choose the direction they want to go in and then have to deal with that. Clearly the people that run the place need to make some decisions and need to find a way out of the cul-de-sac they’ve got themselves into.”
Cockerill admitted it hadn’t been a happy end to his association with the two-time European and ten-time Premiership champions. “It never is when you get the sack. You’ll find out one day,” he said with a smile at his press conference ahead of Edinburgh’s Heineken Champions Cup quarter-final against Munster.
“They’re a big club with a big supporter base and they expect success. They’re not having it,” he continued. “No team’s too big to get relegated. Northampton, Bristol got relegated, Harlequins got relegated.”
A number of England players, like Ben Youngs and Manu Tuilagi, are on Leicester’s books, many without relegation escape clauses. But RFU boss Nigel Melville confirmed they could still play Test rugby if Leicester go down to the Championship.
“Going down shouldn’t be a reason to abandon ship,” Melville said.