‘There’s a huge amount of positivity around this group’: Leicester Tigers coach Matt O’Connor insists his job is safe despite rumours of unrest
- Matt O’Connor defied suggestions his job was under threat at Leicester Tigers
- The club hierarchy are concerned about the current management structure
- Paul Grayson has returned to Northampton as consultant kicking coach
Matt O’Connor bristled with defiance yesterday as he dismissed doubts about his future as head coach at Leicester, by insisting that the players and coaches are good enough to return to familiar territory in the play-offs this season.
The Tigers missed out on the Premiership top four at the end of the last campaign – the first time they had been absent from the knock-out stages since 2004.
Sportsmail revealed recently that the East Midlands club’s hierarchy harbour grave doubts about the current regime and that O’Connor is under considerable pressure going into the new season.
Matt O’Connor defied suggestions his job was under threat at Leicester Tigers
However, the Australian hit back, in the build-up to his side’s opener at Exeter, deriding any notion of ‘turmoil’ behind the scenes and declaring that Leicester are well set for a title challenge.
‘That was an interesting article,’ he said, in reference to claims in these pages about unrest behind the scenes at Welford Road.
‘There’s a huge amount of positivity around this group and what we can achieve. We’ve got a fantastic squad – talent-wise as good as anyone. I think we are in a significantly better place than we were 12 months ago. If we can be that bit more consistent, we’ll be there or there abouts.’
Sources told Sportsmail that an end-of-season post-mortem by the Tigers in May identified the need to add to the coaching staff.
But O’Connor added: ‘We looked at it and thought there was a pretty good opportunity for us to re-define the roles in the group that we have. We’ve done that and it’s worked really well through pre-season.’
During his years in charge at Leicester, Richard Cockerill spoke repeatedly about the pressure to deliver success for the best-supported club in the country. Now, his former assistant is feeling that heat, but he emphasised shared responsibility to reach acceptable targets.
‘There’s always a personal pressure on the guy in charge but also a collective pressure on everyone within the environment, in terms of what is expected and what has to be delivered,’ said O’Connor.
‘Everybody understands what we are trying to achieve and understands that what we achieved last year and over the last six years isn’t good enough. We will try to make sure that we are playing in a home semi-final and we are playing for trophies at the end of May.’
Northampton announced yesterday that their former England fly-half and coach, Paul Grayson, will be taking up a new role with the club as a kicking consultant.
His son, James – a No 10 who played for England at the Under 20 World Cup back in June – is now part of the Saints’ first-team squad.
Former Northampton coach and fly-half has returned to the club as kicking consultant