Richard Cockerill has not always found himself on the side of the angels during the heated exchanges that often occur at rugby’s high-pressure moments. But when the Leicester director of rugby finally responded to the fusillade of profanities aimed in his direction by one of his former employees – the Toulon prop Martin Castrogiovanni – following Sunday’s European Champions Cup contest at Welford Road, his choice of language was almost Keatsian by comparison.
“There was nothing heat-of-the-moment about what he said: to walk 50 yards down to the press room and summon the English media... he knew exactly what he was doing and it was pretty sad,” Cockerill remarked, referring to a tirade apparently driven by what the Argentine-born Italian front-rower perceived as the unjust circumstances surrounding his departure from Leicester last year. “Castro can call me what he likes, but not the club who dealt with the whole contract matter in a very professional manner.
“He has sullied his reputation with our supporters and I’m sorry about that: I’d rather remember him marauding round the field in a Tigers shirt. But we have some very big hitters on our board and to call them ‘amateurs’ and use the language he did against the club was inappropriate and petulant. It was also untrue. There’s a lot of things about this place, but one thing it isn’t is amateur. For him to say that... for me, it’s disgusting. He needs to make sure he apologises publicly.”
Castrogiovanni, one of the sport’s more revered eccentrics for a good many years now, may pay a heavy price for his outburst. The Toulon management, sufficiently embarrassed to have made a formal apology of their own, have already imposed a short suspension that takes him safely out of range of Saturday’s return match on the Côte d’Azur, and may impose further sanctions once an internal inquiry is complete.
They are also investigating a complaint against Delon Armitage, who has been accused of poor behaviour towards spectators at Welford Road. In addition, tournament officials are weighing up their own options in terms of disciplinary action.
If Toulon, the reigning European champions, have saddled themselves with some unforeseen issues, Harlequins have also run into a nasty problem, albeit of a very different kind. Chris Robshaw, the England captain, is definitely out of Saturday’s important match with Leinster in Dublin after breaking down with a shoulder injury, and it may be that he requires surgery – a highly unwelcome prospect this close to the start of a Six Nations campaign.
The high-performing flanker is due a consultation with a specialist and will discover over the next 24 hours whether a spell of rest, followed by intensive physiotherapy, will do the trick. If an operation is the best way forward, his participation against Wales at the Millennium Stadium on 6 February, the championship’s opening night, will be in serious doubt. Should Robshaw miss the game, the captaincy is likely to go to one of two Northampton forwards – Dylan Hartley or Tom Wood.
Wales prop Aaron Jarvis is expected to be sidelined for “around six weeks” after suffering a pectoral muscle injury during the 12-6 victory over South Africa at the Millennium Stadium 11 days ago.Reuse content