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Michael Cheika and Vern Cotter leading candidates to take charge at Leicester Tigers

Michael Cheika coaching Argentina - Mark Kolbe/Getty Images
Michael Cheika coaching Argentina - Mark Kolbe/Getty Images

Michael Cheika and Vern Cotter have emerged as leading candidates to take on Steve Borthwick’s former role at Leicester Tigers.

Telegraph Sport understands that both men, who have extensive experience of European club rugby union as well as the international scene, are on a narrowing shortlist with Cheika becoming a more likely proposition. The Premiership champions are intent on landing a significant appointment and have money to spend following the Rugby Football Union’s acquisition of their leading coaches.

On the day it was confirmed that both Richard Wigglesworth, the interim head coach of Leicester Tigers, and Aled Walters, their head of performance, would be following Borthwick and Kevin Sinfield to England, the club announced that it was “nearing the conclusion of the interview stage”.

Aled Walters oversees Leicester training - Getty Images/Malcolm Couzens
Aled Walters oversees Leicester training - Getty Images/Malcolm Couzens

Leicester could yet lose another member of their backroom team to England. Richard Cockerill will be leaving Borthwick’s set-up at the end of the Six Nations to join Montpellier as forwards coach next season. Tom Harrison, the highly-rated scrum coach at Tigers, is a potential replacement. It is understood that he visited Pennyhill Park last week.

Cotter took charge of Fiji in 2020 but resigned from his post just last week, declaring himself “disappointed to be leaving at this time” having “built a great culture”.

The timing of his resignation from Fiji would make him a particularly attractive proposition for Leicester because the World Cup would not preclude him from overseeing pre-season this coming summer ahead of the 2023-24 campaign.

Vern Cotter coaching Scotland - Franck Fife/AFP
Vern Cotter coaching Scotland - Franck Fife/AFP

Whether Cheika would be able to do the same is unclear, given his commitments as current head coach of Argentina. However, the well-travelled Australian, a former head coach of Leinster, Stade Français, the New South Wales Waratahs and the Wallabies among a number of teams around the world, has juggled jobs before – notably last autumn with the Pumas and Lebanon’s rugby league side at the World Cup – and is understood to have impressed decision-makers at Tigers.

The successful candidate is expected to have the freedom to assemble their own coaching team and Andrea Pinchen, the Leicester chief executive, stated on Tuesday that the club was “not interested in having a transition period”.

“As we have stated before now, we began the process of identifying candidates for the Leicester Tigers head coach role at the beginning of the current campaign when we felt there was a chance Steve Borthwick would be targeted by the national side,” she said in a statement.

“That process has been ongoing for a number of months, from which we narrowed down to a shortlist and are nearing the end of the interview process with those candidates. We will be taking the time we feel necessary to get the best possible people in to lead Leicester Tigers from next season into the future.”