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Tigers losing their bite?

Leicester forwards coach Richard Cockerill discusses the game with head coach M
Loffreda (right) is under pressure to deliver at Leicester

By Phil Harlow
BBC Sport

"I don't know if it's acceptable or not... sometimes these kind of things happen."

That was Leicester coach Marcello Loffreda's answer on Saturday, when asked whether it would be acceptable for his side to end the season without a trophy after watching his side slip to a comprehensive 23-6 loss to the Ospreys in the EDF Energy Cup final at Twickenham.

That reply might make uncomfortable reading for a club who have made a habit of collecting trophies in the professional era, establishing a unique culture in the process.

It wasn't a very Leicester-like performance

Leicester captain Martin Corry on his side's defeat

Welford Road is an unforgiving environment.

Fights between players in training are far from uncommon, while coaches who brought silverware to the club - including Bob Dwyer and Dean Richards - have been shown the door after bad runs of form.

Under Loffreda, who took over at the Tigers in November last year, Leicester have gone out of the Heineken Cup, lost the EDF Energy Cup final and are far from certain of reaching the end-of-season Guinness Premiership play-offs.

There have been some excellent performances along the way, such as the Andy Goode-inspired defeat of Wasps in the EDF semi-finals, and there is no doubting Loffreda's credentials as a quality coach.

Taking his native Argentina, a team who have no regular tournament to play in, to third place in the last World Cup is one of the most impressive achievements in modern-day Test rugby.

But understanding the particular demands of coaching Leicester, the most successful British club of the professional era, is a task that Loffreda quickly needs to get his head around.

Leicester fly-half Andy Goode
Leicester had to watch the Ospreys lift the trophy

"It's a great experience and I'm very proud to be involved with this team and with the staff I am working with," he said.

"Everybody wants to win and wants trophies but sometimes there are bad moments and you have to face up to them."

Pride in representing the club is taken as a given at Leicester, and it will need more than that for Loffreda to win over the doubters.

Loffreda's command of the English language is developing all the time, but it is still some way short of perfect, which no doubt hampers his attempts to get his message across to the players.

The 48-year-old, who resigned from his day job as a civil engineer to join Leicester, has Tigers stalwarts Neil Back and Richard Cockerill on the coaching staff to help him adjust.

But many more displays like Leicester's feeble showing at Twickenham will leave Loffreda - who has come in for criticism for his decision to leave speedster Tom Varndell out of the side to face the Ospreys - on thin ice.

"We are really disappointed because we could have played better," said Loffreda.

"We had some turnovers and we didn't score when we could have done. They played on the front foot most of the time."

The Tigers lacked ideas in attack, came off second-best at the breakdown and found their defence noticeably porous at key times.

"It wasn't a very Leicester-like performance," admitted Leicester captain Martin Corry in an honest assessment of the display.

606: DEBATE
Henry Crispin V

"You want to produce your best in these games and we didn't. We underperformed in every facet of the game.

"Our underlying problem this season has been our consistency. We've put in the performances and we know we can get there. Unfortunately we haven't been able to do that game after game.

"We are under the cosh and under a huge amount of pressure. This is a time where we look at the players and we have to pull together very tight."

Leicester, fifth in the league table, have four Premiership games left to qualify for the play-offs.

"Now it is the biggest challenge to finish in the top four," said Loffreda.

"It's our aim and we will try to work very hard and very smart. We trust in our squad and we know that they are going to come back with their effort."




see also
Ospreys can still fly higher
13 Apr 08 |  Ospreys
Ospreys 23-6 Leicester
12 Apr 08 |  Rugby Union
EDF Energy Cup final as it happened
12 Apr 08 |  Rugby Union
EDF Cup final photos
12 Apr 08 |  Rugby Union
Loffreda says no crisis at Tigers
12 Mar 08 |  Leicester
Loffreda angered by sloppy finale
25 Feb 08 |  Leicester
Loffreda admits Tigers were poor
18 Feb 08 |  Leicester
Loffreda named as new Tigers boss
25 Apr 07 |  Leicester


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