Leicester Tigers director of rugby Richard Cockerill has rallied his players and told them they can make the knockout stages of the Champions Cup — despite their “embarrassing” defeat to Munster last weekend.
Cockerill’s side were thumped 38-0 on Saturday at Thomond Park in what was the heaviest defeat in Europe during the club’s history.
More pressingly it is a result that has left Leicester third in Pool 1; six points adrift of top spot and automatic qualification to the knockout stages of this season’s Champions Cup.
However, as they prepare to welcome group leaders Munster to Welford Road on Saturday for the return fixture, Cockerill is in bullish mood and still believes his side can progress to the quarter-finals.
“It was an embarrassing performance wasn’t it? ” said Cockerill.
“It was a really poor result. We played poorly and credit to Munster, they were very good. But from our end it was pretty horrendous in most parts to be fair. We need to front up physically and emotionally Saturday and make sure the crowd see the effort and endeavour that we put in.
“This pool is not dead and I don’t care want anybody says. Racing have had a shocking result at the weekend and they will be going to Glasgow to put that right.
“We have had a shocking result at the weekend and we have got to put that right. But if we win at the weekend, and Racing go to Glasgow and win, the pool is tight with two games to go — although obviously two teams have got three games to go.
“So this pool is not dead. We are going to fight to the death and we can still qualify out of this pool if we get it right. There are good sides in this pool but we are going to battle, and we are going to front up, and we are going to give it our best shot to try and do what we can.”
Like Cockerill, Tigers’ forward Ed Slater is licking his wounds from last weekend as he and his team-mates try to make amends on Saturday.
Slater admits he has watched the defeat to Munster back several times already, while the squad had a full debrief on Monday.
And as he reflected yesterday on his emotions during the flight home and that meeting, one feeling stuck out more than the rest.
“They beat us so comfortably that it was more embarrassment,” he said.
“We weren’t ever in the game. I think on Sunday pretty much everyone who played in the game watched it back and had a real look at what went wrong. Then on Monday we laid it all out on the table in a meeting, and then moved it to one side as we concentrate on the week and how we can prepare for Saturday.
“It is not just about how unhappy the coaches are, it is about how unhappy the playing group are. It is not just them who are disappointed with the performance, it is everyone in the team.
“I remember during the game looking up when Tyler [Bleyendaal] had kicked that penalty to make it 12-0 and thinking — ‘Jesus, where are those 12 points coming from?’ You can’t give a side like Munster a head start because it will kill you, it will absolutely kill you.
“It was a bad, bad performance — I am not denying it — but I don’t think it is a reflection of us as a team or as a playing group.
“I think we are a lot better than that and I don’t think you will see it again. We still believe we can get out of the group. You don’t just give up.”
Elsewhere, the Round 13 rescheduled game between Edinburgh Rugby v Munster Rugby, originally set to take place on January 7, 2017, will now take place on Friday, February 3 at Myreside and will be broadcast live on Sky Sports.
However, the Round 15 game between Ospreys and Munster at Liberty Stadium cannot be fixed at this point due to uncertainty regarding Swansea City’s participation in the FA Cup fifth round.
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