Leicester End Toulon’s European Unbeaten Run and Castrogiovanni speaks out
Leicester ended Toulon’s 10-match winning run in this competition as 20 points from the boot of Owen Williams knocked the reigning champions off their perch. Having let a 13-0 lead slip in the first half, Leicester relied on the brawn of their tight-five and the brains of their half-backs, Williams and the excellent Ben Youngs, to grind out victory in a intensely physical and compelling second half. They issued a reminder of their own European pedigree against the two-time champions and the Tigers did what they do best by scrapping, spoiling and smashing Toulon into submission.
After the match, Martin Castrogiovanni accused his former director of rugby at Leicester Richard Cockerill, of damaging his reputation when he left for Toulon in 2013. The Italian prop was a fan favourite, making 149 appearances in his seven years at the club, but he left the Midlands for the south of France with a year remaining on his contract. Castrogiovanni claimed that he paid his own transfer fee to leave and fiercely denied that money was his motivating factor, he said. “I paid my own f—— money to leave this club. I don’t need money to play rugby. I never had the opportunity to defend myself when I left because people talked about this s— and Cockers talks about the money, but the real thing when I left this club is because you have [Dan] Cole and you have me. “Cole gets paid half the money from the RFU [Rugby Football Union] and I am foreign. You have a good tighthead prop playing for England and a hairy fat Italian. The thing is they made it look like I went for the money, but I paid £100,000 from my pocket to leave this club because I want to play rugby. That’s it. I never want to speak with Cockers anymore. I’m the kind of guy that if I hate you, if you are not clear with me or if you have been a c—, how you say in English, I never want to speak to you anymore. That’s it. That’s how I am. I am not fake. Fair enough they deserved to win today. They played really well and we didn’t play our standard. They played quite a good game, they were physical but they’ve just won a game. All they’ve done is win a fucking game. Now they need to come to our home and we’ll see. We’ll see next week what’s going on. I left half of my heart here and I still love this place. It as a little bit strange to go into a different changing room but this is life as a professional rugby player. It felt like my first game for Italy against Argentina; there was a lot of emotion going around but soon you forget everything when you start playing. A club is a club and life keeps going but when you get a lot of love from people like that they understand that you are a good person and you give the heart for this club. That is what made me happy because I think they understand that and I think they realise that. A player never wants to be bigger than this club.”
Cockerill’s response to the Italian’s accusations was rather diplomatic: “One day he’ll realise that’s just sport. This club made him the player he was. I don’t want him to feel bitter towards us. One day we’ll have a beer together and smile about it.”