Aviva Premiership
The win at all costs mentality
Tom Hamilton at Twickenham
August 29, 2013
Dean Richards and Richard Cockerill field questions from the media © PA Photos

They both sat at the top table at the Aviva Premiership launch; one having just served his time for breaking the rules, one just about to serve the nine-match ban he copped at the end of the season.

Leicester Tigers boss Richard Cockerill and Newcastle Falcons chief Dean Richards are no strangers to the new season pomp and circumstance, but both enter this campaign with a fresh insight and understanding into the disciplinary workings of the English domestic game.

Neither are strangers to success at this level. Both enjoyed trophy-laden playing careers and took that mentality into coaching. They are at very different stages of their coaching career, yet their philosophy and that desire to win was clearly evident at Twickenham on Thursday.

Richards is back in the Premiership after four seasons away after serving a three-year suspension for his role in the infamous 'Bloodgate'. He will guide Newcastle Falcons this term, after they spent a year in the Championship after falling through the trapdoor at the end of the 2011-12 season.

But regardless of Richards' time away from the game, he looked at home among the swathes of press, captains and coaches: "It hasn't changed much, there are the same old faces. It's great to be back."

Leicester boss Richard Cockerill remonstrates with the officials on the touchline, Leicester Tigers v Northampton Saints, Aviva Premiership Final, Twickenham, May 25, 2013
Cockerill's fiery temper got him in hot water © Getty Images

While the Falcons are the new kids on the block, with the promoted side usually the favourite for the drop, Richards' desire to see his team come out on top remains. There was no talk of picking up the necessary seven or eight wins to secure top flight safety, as then London Welsh coach Lyn Jones stated aim 12 months ago.

Instead, it was steely-eyed determination which met the questions of what is needed for the Falcons to stay in the top flight.

"We haven't got the squad that Richard [Cockerill] has got, but I'm happy with it," the Falcons coach said. "My goal is for us to be competitive in every game and to win in every game. And for our coaches, we want to get the team in a position where they can win every game."

For Cockerill, who raised a smile when Courtney Lawes' late hit on Toby Flood was broadcast to the watching press (it was the tackle that prompted his furious outburst to the fourth official and a verbal onslaught which led to his ban), his burning desire to win was as present as ever.

He will spend the first seven games of the season watching in the stands and in his own words, "that's what happens when you break the rules".

He played under Richards when the former No.8 was in charge of the Tigers and while a championship is probably not part of Richards' remit this term, it is almost demanded of Cockerill's crop.

"The expectation of Leicester is always huge," Cockerill said. "We win the Championship and an hour later, the focus turns to pre-season. The chairman says 'Well you should have won, as you're the best side'. Our aim is to win again.

"We'll be champions wherever we go, I suppose that's a marketing dream. Everyone will raise their game to play again us and we have to rise to that, that's the nature of it. That's the job that any coach inherits. It was the same in Dean's era, my era and whoever inherits the job from me."

Newcastle Falcons boss Dean Richards at the Championship launch, Twickenham, London, August 21, 2012
Will Richards be the Falcons' messiah? © Getty Images

And his outlook on the game is remarkably similar to Richards'. "If you want to be successful you have to want to play," Cockerill said. It wasn't quite a mutual congratulatory exercise between the two, but there was clear respect.

It is testament to the aura that still surrounds Richards - who could end up like Brian Clough, the greatest coach England never had - that his side are not immediately being tipped for the drop like Worcester, Leeds or London Welsh before them. There was no talk of struggling from Richards, and Cockerill was quick to add his praise for the Falcons' effort.

"John [Wells] and Dean will produce a team that's hard to play against. Across the board it will be harder than ever. The coaching across the Premiership is very strong."

Predictions for who will win or be relegated from the Premiership were much less forthcoming than previous seasons, though Richards suggested he felt Harlequins would drop out of the top four - whether this was a not-so-subtle dig at his former employers or a take on a summer which has seen Leicester, Northampton and Saracens all bolster their ranks significantly is something only he knows.

A new season awaits but on Thursday it was all so very familiar. Cockerill and Richards' win at all costs mentality has probably been tapered by their respective brushes with the law, but you can bet your season tickets on neither wanting that victory any less.

It's a results business, consequences be damned, and these two know it more than most.

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd
Tom Hamilton is the Assistant Editor of ESPNscrum.

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