Hernandez reveals inquiry from Tigers
PA Sport
April 25, 2007

Stade Francais star Juan Martin Hernandez claims Leicester have offered him the chance to link up with his national coach Marcelo Loffreda at Welford Road next season.

Argentina boss Loffreda has been confirmed as Tigers' new head coach, taking over from Pat Howard after the World Cup in France later this year.

Leicester already have two Argentina internationals on their books - props Marcos Ayerza and Alex Moreno - and Hernandez has now revealed what is thought to be significant six-figure interest from the 2007 Heineken Cup finalists.

Hernandez is unsettled at Stade Francais, where he wants to play fly-half in competition with David Skrela and Lionel Beauxis, rather than his current position of full-back.

The 24-year-old produced an outstanding performance in Stade's 21-20 Heineken Cup quarter-final defeat against Leicester earlier this month.

He said: ``I am under contract with Stade Francais until June 2009, and I am therefore not available.

``The truth is that a lot of clubs or franchises in Europe, and therefore in France, know that I wish from now on to play at number 10 and that here, there isn't a place for me there.

``They (Leicester) therefore asked me if I was free, and in this case, they were offering me this position.

``But I replied that I was under contract, and therefore the discussions did not go any further.''

Loffreda, meanwhile, has been pencilled in for the Leicester job since Christmas, emerging as an overwhelming favourite for arguably English club rugby's top job.

And he could inherit a Leicester side at the peak of its powers.

Tigers have already won the EDF Energy Cup this season, while they meet Wasps in next month's Heineken Cup final and are also contesting the Guinness Premiership title.

Loffreda won 44 caps for Argentina, and took over as Pumas coach in 2000.

Announcing the appointment, Tigers chairman Peter Tom said: ``Marcelo has done a marvellous job in taking Argentina to the top ranks of the international game.

``He is recognised as a top-class coach, and has developed a squad of quality players to the point where they have reached number six in the world rankings.

``I have been impressed by his thoughts on the game, his approach to coaching and his ideas on how to take Leicester Tigers forward.

``We look forward to the fresh input from Marcelo, as well as the continued development of the existing staff and players at the club.''

With Howard heading home to Australia at the end of this season, forwards coach Richard Cockerill will take charge of team affairs, assisted by the rest of the Tigers coaching staff, until Loffreda's arrival.

Loffreda was a guest of the club at last Saturday's Heineken semi-final victory over Llanelli Scarlets.

He was at the helm when Argentina recorded their first victory over England at Twickenham - a 25-18 success five months ago that heavily contributed towards head coach Andy Robinson losing his job - while the Pumas will arrive in France for this year's World Cup as a powerful force.

They are in the same pool as France and Ireland, but possess the capability to upset both teams, and a quarter-final place is not beyond them.

Loffreda said: ``The name of Leicester Tigers is renowned throughout the rugby world.

``To be invited to join this great club as head coach was an honour not only for me, but also for the people who love rugby in Argentina.

``Leicester is a club with a wonderful history and has supporters who are passionate about their club. I know there is also a squad of players with a hunger and drive to be the best.

``There are some exciting times ahead for us all at Tigers.''

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