Thompson 'inspired' to join Leeds

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The Independent Online

The England hooker Steve Thompson has revealed it was head coach Neil Back's ferocious will to win that persuaded him to sign a two-year contract with Leeds. Thompson, 32, said he turned down several other offers in order to reunite with his 2003 World Cup-winning team-mate after a spell in France with Brive.

The desire head coach Back showed as a player was evident at Headingley last season as Leeds stayed in the top flight against the odds.

"When I spoke to Neil and [director of rugby] Andy Key I was inspired by them," Thompson said yesterday. "When we played together for England, Backy was coaching me even then and was always one of the leaders. He took hold of us and he led from the front.

"He's changed slightly from his playing days but he's still got that ferocious drive and ambition. Just look at what he achieved last year with Leeds. A lot of people class success as winning silverware but the fact that Leeds stayed up was a tremendous feat."

Richard Cockerill has signed a new contract with Leicester that sees him retitled as the club's director of rugby. The restructuring also elevates assistant Matt O'Connor to head coach while Peter Wheeler is named executive director.

"Leicester is a unique club," said Cockerill. "This is one of those special jobs in the world of sport and I feel privileged to be in this position."

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