European Rugby Champions Cup
Castrogiovanni launches scathing attack on Cockerill
ESPN Staff
December 7, 2014
Martin Castrogiovanni hit out at Richard Cockerill after Toulon's defeat © Getty Images

Martin Castrogiovanni has launched an astonishing verbal attack on his former Leicester Tigers boss Richard Cockerill after the Italian's Toulon side suffered a 25-21 European Champions Cup defeat at Welford Road.

Castrogiovanni, who left Leicester to join Toulon in 2013 after eight years in the East Midlands, held court post-match after specifically asking to speak with English journalists.

And during an impassioned five-minute address, he did not hold back in his criticism of Tigers rugby director Cockerill, claiming he paid his own money to leave the club following suggestions he departed for a pay-rise.

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"I thought f****** Leicester were f****** amateur," said Castrogiovanni. "He was saying that people go for the money but he has a lot of f****** squad players who get paid as well. I paid my own f****** money to leave this club. I don't need the money to play rugby. I love this game and I used to love this club - I still love this club, but when people are up to here in water, they talk this talk but don't walk the walk.

"I never want to speak with Cockers any more. I am 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 any more. That's it. That's how I am. I am not fake. If I hate you, I say in your face and I will never speak to you again. Love me or hate me. I don't hate anyone. Peace and love. I just don't like c****."

Castrogiovanni made 149 appearances during seven seasons with Leicester but his place as the club's first-choice front row was effectively ended due to the rise of England prop Dan Cole.

"I never had the opportunity to defend myself when I left," Castrogiovanni added. "People talked about this s*** and money. Cockers talks about the money, but the real reason I left this club is because you have Cole and you have me. Cole paid gets paid half the money from the RFU and I am foreign.

"What the f*** you want? You have a good f****** tighthead prop playing for England and a hairy fat Italian. The thing is that 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 always love this club and I wanted to clarify and talk face to face, which is something Cockers never does. I think in the last few years people are getting sacked and this club was not like that before.

"They used to respect people, now they act like nothing is going on. That is not from the club, that is from the guys in charge. Everything you do in your life - good or bad - will come back to you and they sack people who have been at this club for 17 years. When I get to this club it was all about the shirt and the badge."

Cockerill refused to be drawn into a war of words, however. When Castrogiovanni's comments were put to him, the former England hooker said: "He was released from his contract. There was a transfer fee involved in that, which was dealt with between Simon Cohen [Leicester chief executive] and Toulon.

"Castro came here eight years ago and he has been fantastic for this club. I have got a lot of time for him. Sometimes in sport, things happen.

"I pick on merit. Dan Cole was third on merit behind Julian White and Castro, and I told Dan Cole when he was better than the other two I would pick him, and when he was, I picked him. That's the game sometimes.

"Castro is a fantastic icon for this club, and I have nothing but praise for him. One day, he will realise that it is just sport. I have got nothing but praise for him.

"I don't want him to feel bitter towards us. I certainly don't feel bitter towards him. One day we will have a beer and we will smile about it."

On the field, fly-half Owen Williams kicked 20 points to see the Tigers home, booting six penalties and converting lock Brad Thorn's 19th-minute try.

But Leicester were made to sweat following an impressive Toulon revival from 13-0 adrift as wings Bryan Habana and Drew Mitchell claimed touchdowns, while fly-half Nicolas Sanchez landed three penalties and a conversion.

While the reigning European champions still top their group, courtesy of a losing bonus point, Leicester moved themselves firmly into the shake-up prior to next Saturday's quick-fire return fixture at Stade Felix Mayol.

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