Cockerill escapes RFU charge over claims he abused referee

Leicester coach vindicated after insisting that he did not step out of line during heated Saints contest

It is almost precisely a year since the Rugby Football Union banned the Saracens coach Brendan Venter from attending Twickenham – and, indeed, from setting foot in the surrounding part of Greater London – on the day his side made their first appearance in a Premiership grand final. The decision seemed hopelessly vindictive at the time and has not improved with the passage of time. Happily, the governing body's disciplinarians have not made the same mistake in respect of the Leicester coach Richard Cockerill ahead of this weekend's showpiece meeting with... you guessed it, Saracens.

Cockerill, no one's idea of impartial bystander when his Tigers are out there on the field, was heavily criticised in the public prints following the semi-final victory over Northampton at Welford Road 10 days ago: a game that generated more than its fair share of controversy, thanks to the pugilistic excesses of the teenage centre Manu Tuilagi and the inability of the touch judge Robin Goodliffe to see things happening in front of his face.

Some media outlets accused Cockerill, together with his back-room sidekick Matt O'Connor, of using foul language and aiming at least some of it at Brian Campsall, a member of the union's elite refereeing unit, who was observing from a nearby seat.

Ever since – almost on a daily basis, in fact – Cockerill has protested his innocence. He was at it again yesterday, following a training session at the Leicester headquarters on the outskirts of town. "The criticism was completely unjustified," he pronounced, without uttering so much as a single four-letter word. "Do I get too involved at times? Without a doubt. But in this case I've been accused of things I didn't do. I suppose we could all just sit there, quiet and boring. That's not my style, as everyone knows, but I have no case to answer on this occasion."

He could not be sure at the time of speaking that he and O'Connor would not be summoned to Twickenham, dumped on the naughty step and punished – perhaps in the way Venter had been punished 12 months previously. However, Judge Jeff Blackett, the RFU's chief disciplinary officer, decided against pursuing the matter. Campsall, he said, had denied being abused by any Leicester official during 80 minutes of pandemonium at Welford Road. What was more, none of those who reported Cockerill's alleged excesses were willing to provide a witness statement or subject themselves to cross-examination at a formal hearing.

According to the judge's report, the worst Cockerill was heard to say was: "He's meant to be a Test referee, in the biggest match of the season. It's not bloody good enough. Yellow card." This hardly makes him the sporting version of Malcolm Tucker. Ruder things have been said in church.

"Rugby is an emotional game and those involved often express their emotions loudly," the judge said. "They must do so within the core values of the game... and any coach who abuses match officials will be dealt with severely. But I cannot take action in relation to allegations that are denied unless I have evidence that will stand up to scrutiny. In this case, there is none."

England have named 11 uncapped players, including the Exeter flanker Tom Johnson and the young Gloucester centre Henry Trinder, in a 24-man squad for the annual meeting with the Barbarians at Twickenham on Sunday. The majority have no realistic chance of making the cut for the World Cup in New Zealand, but a few – the Bath-bound lock Dave Attwood and the Northampton-bound prop Paul Doran-Jones – will benefit from big performances.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Isis hostage crisis: The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power

Isis hostage crisis

The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power, says Robert Fisk
Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Maverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
Missing salvage expert who found $50m of sunken treasure before disappearing, tracked down at last

The runaway buccaneers and the ship full of gold

Salvage expert Tommy Thompson found sunken treasure worth millions. Then he vanished... until now
Assisted Dying Bill: I want to be able to decide about my own death - I want to have control of my life

Assisted Dying Bill: 'I want control of my life'

This week the Assisted Dying Bill is debated in the Lords. Virginia Ironside, who has already made plans for her own self-deliverance, argues that it's time we allowed people a humane, compassionate death
Move over, kale - cabbage is the new rising star

Cabbage is king again

Sophie Morris banishes thoughts of soggy school dinners and turns over a new leaf
11 best winter skin treats

Give your moisturiser a helping hand: 11 best winter skin treats

Get an extra boost of nourishment from one of these hard-working products
Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

Homeless Veterans appeal

MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

Comedians share stories of depression

The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

Has The Archers lost the plot?

A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

14 office buildings added to protected lists

Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee
World War Z author Max Brooks honours WW1's Harlem Hellfighters in new graphic novel

Max Brooks honours Harlem Hellfighters

The author talks about race, legacy and his Will Smith film option to Tim Walker
Why the league system no longer measures up

League system no longer measures up

Jon Coles, former head of standards at the Department of Education, used to be in charge of school performance rankings. He explains how he would reform the system