Ollie Phillips: Mike Ford needs to galvanise Leicester to move them away from Premiership relegation

 
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Leicester Tigers Media Session
Mike Ford (left) has been brought in to help Geordan Murphy at Leicester (Source: Getty)

There are five games left in the Premiership season and it’s crunch time at the bottom where four teams are battling it out to avoid the dreaded drop.


Of the four it’s Leicester Tigers who are most unused to their standing, having slumped to 10th place and five points above the drop through a run of eight defeats from their last 11 games.

With time running out Leicester have brought Mike Ford into the coaching team until the end of the season to try and help Geordan Murphy revive an ailing side.

Read more: Ollie Phillips: Wales Grand Slam down to impeccable leadership

Ford, who has previously been England and Ireland’s defence coach, is supposed to take some responsibility from Murphy, bring fresh ideas and galvanise the squad.


He’s said this week that he’s not worried about relegation, but the Tigers hierarchy clearly are nervous because otherwise they wouldn’t be desperately trying to steady the ship so late in the season.

I’m not convinced Ford’s arrival will be effective in such a short timeframe but it remains to be seen if he triggers a turnaround.

Legacy problem

I don’t believe Murphy, who took over after Matt O’Connor’s departure one game into the season, is to blame for Leicester’s position.

The Tigers have a legacy problem: they haven’t reinforced properly or developed youngsters in their academy to step into the shoes of their legendary former players.

But that’s the least of their concerns right now. After four defeats from their last five Premiership matches and just one away win all campaign they simply need to focus on digging themselves out of a hole to ensure survival.

England v Scotland - Guinness Six Nations
George Ford and Jonny May have to perform for Leicester (Source: Getty)

If they can leverage the atmosphere at Welford Road, find some confidence and get some performances from quality internationals like George Ford, Jonny May and Ben Youngs then they can do it.

They face top side Exeter on Saturday, which is a tough ask, before a potentially pivotal away trip to Newcastle next weekend. If they can take something positive from those fixtures then they might not need to rely on their remaining home games against Bristol and Bath.

Dogfight

Unfortunately for Leicester there are three other sides just as determined to stay in the division, who also happen to be more familiar with a dogfight.

Bottom side Newcastle and 11th-placed Worcester both also have match-winners like Vereniki Goneva and Josh Adams who could prove crucial in the run-in.

Bristol, who sit seven points off bottom in ninth, are still in the mixer and will have a big say because they travel to both Leicester and Newcastle in their final three games.

Playing to avoid relegation is very different to playing for a top four spot. It’s about scrapping for points, playing the percentages and taking fewer risks. Are Leicester well-versed in such tactics?

The idea of ring-fencing the Premiership by scrapping promotion and relegation has been floated recently. But no matter whoever wins the fight for survival, the next six weeks are likely to provide a compelling argument for keeping the current system.

Former England Sevens captain Ollie Phillips is a director within the real estate & construction team at PwC and founder of Optimist Performance. Follow Ollieon Twitter and on LinkedIn

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