Cockerill has nothing but respect for Sarries
May 27, 2011
ESPNscrum Podcast: Aviva Premiership Season Review%]
Leicester Tigers boss Richard Cockerill has heaped praise on Saracens on the eve of their Aviva Premiership Final showdown at Twickenham on Saturday.
Cockerill will be looking to complete a hat-trick of titles in charge of the Tigers at Twickenham tomorrow, as the top two sides in the table meet in a repeat of last year's showpiece. Leicester won that thrilling tussle thanks to a late Dan Hipkiss try but have lost the last three league meetings between the sides.
And Sarries have finished the campaign in stunning form, embarking on a winning run which was extended to 12 matches with their 12-10 semi-final triumph over Gloucester at Vicarage Road. The Watford-based side have not won many style points for an approach which saw them score just 35 tries in the regular season, as opposed to Leicester's 67 but Cockerill respects what Saracens have achieved.
"They are very accurate in what they do. Some like it, some don't but I have every admiration for them, what they have done and the culture they are creating down there," he noted. "They have been to two finals in two years, and with two minutes to go last year they were champions. Two minutes later we were - that's how close it could be.
"Much as people criticise them, they were nominated for the try of the year award and that was a 90-metre attack, so they can play both ways. They choose to play conservatively but you have to control the ball and play well out of your own half. They kick the ball to you a lot but you have to be able to deal with it."
Cockerill, who earlier this week was told he would face no action over allegations that he and head coach Matt O'Connor used foul and abusive language towards elite referee manager Brian Campsall during the bruising semi-final win over Northampton, also praised his side's magnificent defensive effort against the Saints.
The Tigers had been uncharacteristically accommodating during the final weeks of the regular season, shipping 41 points in the draw with Gloucester and letting London Irish gain a handy lead before fighting back for the win. But they managed to nullify Northampton's ball carriers and limited the impact of England stars Chris Ashton and Ben Foden during the last-four encounter, and Cockerill believes that bodes well for tomorrow.
"We haven't conceded a huge amount of tries - I think it is just 29 in 22 games - but our defence and attitude to get off the line and knock people over against Saints was excellent," he said. "It shows that after being a bit loose over the previous few weeks, on the big occasion the boys can step up and get it right on the day."
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