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Rugby Union: Michael Cheika targets 'biggest trophies' as rugby icon takes over at Leicester

Michael Cheika is aiming to restore Leicester to the pinnacle of European rugby following his appointment as head coach.

In a coup for the Gallagher Premiership, the former Australia and Argentina boss succeeds Dan McKellar, who parted company with the Tigers on Saturday after only one season in charge.

Cheika starts work on Monday when pre-season begins and Leicester will he hoping his arrival will end a lengthy period of upheaval in the coaching department.

Apart from winning the Premiership title in 2022 when current England boss Steve Borthwick was at the helm, success at Mattioli Woods Welford Road has been elusive and they finished eighth in the league last season.

“I want Leicester competing on as many fronts as we can, every time we go out and play together. It’s just one step at a time, together, to build the foundations,” Cheika said.

“Every player and every team want to win trophies – you aren’t playing the game if you don’t want to win – but there is a difference between wanting to win and doing what’s necessary to win. That is what I’ll be doing.

“English teams have been well represented in the top tier of Europe for a while now and we want to get ourselves up to that place as well now, making sure that Leicester are back to competing for the biggest trophies.”

Cheika held talks with Leicester a year ago as part of the recruitment process that led to McKellar’s appointment and he was seeking a return to rugby league before the Tigers approached him again in the wake of his compatriot’s departure.

The 57-year-old Australian coached Lebanon at the 2021 rugby league World Cup and also spent time at the Sydney Roosters as an assistant.

His last union post was guiding Argentina to fourth-place finish at last autumn’s World Cup, losing to England in the bronze final. At club level he has previously been in charge of Leinster and Stage Francais.

“Honestly, I wasn’t looking at the Premiership and didn’t have the desire to coach in it until Leicester came to me. But the opportunity to coach at Tigers and lead this group of players turned my head,” he said.

“I want this to be my best coaching yet. I want the preparation and the way we lead the team, to be at my best level.

“If I can bring my best level, other people will bring their best level and good things will start to happen around us.”

Leicester chief executive Andrea Pinchen admits the off-season disruption to the coaching team – assistant Dan Palmer also left this week – is unsatisfactory.

“I accept that the past week is not what fans expected – and nor did we – but the decisions we have made are for the long-term benefit of Leicester,” Pinchen said.

“After lengthy, detailed and very honest conversations with Michael in recent days, we are on the same page about what is now necessary to see this club back on top.”

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