Aviva Premiership - Cockerill defends play-off system

Tue, 22 May 08:14:00 2012

Leicester director of rugby Richard Cockerill is heading towards this weekend's Aviva Premiership final knowing his side have been assisted by the presence of a play-off system.

2009 Leicester Tigers Richard Cockerill - 0

Finalists in each of the last seven years, the Tigers would have been out of the running for the trophy had the season ended at the completion of the regular rounds, finishing second to Saturday's opponents Harlequins by a point.

Cockerill said: "In the current structure of the season, when we are playing autumn internationals and the Six Nations, I think this is the only way to do it. You can't legislate for having eight, nine or 10 guys on international duty and still be confident of finishing as champions, because you might need a lot of luck."

Although Quins have excelled this term, Leicester can point to a turbulent start to the campaign that saw them struggle without their World Cup stars and languish in 11th place at one stage as a reason why they are not top dogs.

As a result, they needed a late run of form - they have won 11 games in a row in all competitions leading into Saturday - to make sure they extended their season, with a 24-15 semi-final win over Saracens seeing them through to the showpiece.

Cockerill spent a large percentage of Monday's pre-final media conference answering questions on Toby Flood.

The England fly-half is currently a fitness doubt with an ankle injury, with his condition prompting England coach Stuart Lancaster to suggest he may send a national team doctor to check him out ahead of the summer tour of South Africa. Cockerill responded by saying Lancaster's comments were "very unhelpful", but the two have since met to smooth things over.

"Me and Stu didn't have a bust-up," he said. "We met last week and had a discussion about how we will handle things in the future.

"I get on with Stu. We have a good relationship. We had a difference of opinion, which is okay. We had a healthy discussion and worked out a way of dealing with things moving forward."

Flood's Twickenham participation remains unknown, with teenage rookie George Ford standing by, and Cockerill would not be drawn, only adding: "Floody is working hard and improving day by day."

PA Sport

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