Cockerill denies rift with Lancaster over Flood


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The Independent Online

Leicester, champions of England on nine occasions and a decent bet to take that tally into double figures at Twickenham this weekend, were back in serious training yesterday ahead of their Premiership final against Harlequins.

There was, however, more talk of things that hadn't happened than of those that had. The England fly-half Toby Flood failed to take an active part in the session because of continuing problems with a mangled ankle joint, and there was no sign of a major falling-out between the Midlanders' director of rugby, Richard Cockerill, and the England coach, Stuart Lancaster.

Cockerill, less than impressed by Lancaster's openness in discussing Flood's injury issues, had expressed a desire to thrash things out. But, the former England hooker said, "We met last week but there was no bust-up.

"We had a difference of opinion, which was OK. Now we've had a healthy discussion about what went on and the way we should be dealing with things moving forward. We're not at odds at all." And Flood? "He's about to resume training and we'll see how he comes through. If he doesn't, we have George Ford. It won't be the end of the world."

While Cockerill sanctioned a few days' rest last week, it did not cross his mind to "do a Quins" and fly his players to the Middle East.

"It's not really our thing," he said. "The lads are away from their families quite enough as it is, so to spend four or five days in Abu Dhabi at this stage... I don't see the point."

l Declan Kidney, the Ireland coach, has named three uncapped players – the wing Simon Zebo and the hooker Mike Sherry from Munster and the Ulster prop Declan Fitzpatrick – in a 29-man party for next month's three-Test series in New Zealand. Four spots are to be filled – one will go to the 2009 Lions captain, Paul O'Connell, if fit.