The signs are that Richard Cockerill, one of English rugby's more animated figures, will be allowed into Twickenham for the Guinness Premiership final between Leicester and Saracens this weekend, which is more than can be said for his opposite number Brendan Venter, who has already been declared persona non grata by the stiff upper lip types on the governing body. "If the union deems my behaviour has been sufficiently bad to merit a charge of misconduct, it's up to them," the former England hooker said yesterday. "As far as I'm aware, that's not the case."
Leicester's head coach made his feelings known during the semi-final victory over Bath nine days ago, thumping the table and kicking whatever passes for a cat at Welford Road these days as refereeing decisions went against his side. But in truth, it was the same old "Cockers" – a man who, were his temperament to be assessed on the basis of the four humours of the ancient world, might be described as 99.5 per cent choleric. His "behaviour" would not be under the microscope at all but for Venter's well-documented fallings-out with the Rugby Football Union over the course of a highly controversial, not to say entertaining, first season in charge of Sarries.
While Venter was preparing an appeal against his 14-week match-day coaching ban, imposed after his fiery tête-à-tête with elements of the Leicester crowd in a league match earlier this month, Cockerill was defending himself without the aid of a barrister. "Is thumping a table or kicking the woodwork unacceptable?" he asked. "Maybe it is. I don't do these things on purpose but I'm passionate about my rugby and passionate about winning. Yes, sometimes I shout, often at my own players. But during the game against Bath I didn't abuse anyone or use foul language in venting my frustrations."
Members of the Leicester hierarchy have "had a word", aware as they are that their coach picked up a match-day ban of his own last November after treating the referee Tim Wigglesworth to a full and frank description of his innermost thoughts. "That's fair enough," Cockerill said. "But like Brendan, I'm very driven when it comes to my job. Sometimes, that gets you into trouble. But I've learned my lesson. Nearly."
He reported that apart from one or two long-term injuries, he would have a full squad from which to select for Saturday's last hurrah. The veteran tight-head prop Julian White is hoping to play for the Barbarians next week, but he will be included on his club's Twickenham roster as cover for the current internationals Martin Castrogiovanni and Dan Cole. "The scrums are a big part of big games at the moment," the coach explained. "We'll keep him with us for this one, just in case."
Meanwhile, England have confirmed their touring plans for the next eight years, including three-Test tours of South Africa in 2012, New Zealand in 2014 and Australia two years later, before returning to Springbok country in 2018. When the British and Irish Lions visit Australia in 2013 and New Zealand in 2017, the red-rose army will travel to Argentina. During the World Cup years of 2015 and 2019, there will be no tours anywhere.
Sadly, there is no mention of the Pacific Island nations anywhere on the itinerary. England will not set foot in the South Seas, although both Ireland and Wales have committed to playing matches against the likes of Fiji, Samoa and Tonga in their own backyard – a major step towards reinvigorating rugby union as a spectator sport in a long-neglected part of the world.