Former England assistant coach Richard Cockerill’s stint at Montpellier has ended abruptly, with owner Mohed Altrad bringing in Bernard Laporte to initiate a coaching staff overhaul. The decision followed Montpellier’s recent loss, which placed them at the bottom of the Top 14 table after just one win in seven matches this season.
Cockerill, appointed by Eddie Jones, had chosen not to continue at the Test level under Steve Borthwick, intending to conclude his role after the 2023 Guinness Six Nations. He had planned to take up a sports manager position at the reigning 2022 French league champions. However, Altrad’s introduction of Laporte over the weekend led to an unexpected departure for Cockerill.
Montpellier’s tumultuous season began under Cockerill’s coaching with a home win over European champions La Rochelle on August 20. Still, subsequent defeats prompted Altrad to take swift action, especially following the loss to Perpignan that left Montpellier at the bottom of the Top 14 standings.
Laporte, arriving in Montpellier on Sunday, immediately initiated changes to the coaching staff, dismissing Cockerill and Jean-Baptiste Elissalde. The former France head coach clarified that the decision had been agreed upon weeks earlier, but the recent defeat expedited the process. Laporte’s mission is to support Altrad, assist the players, and assemble a new coaching staff.
Laporte’s restructuring includes Patrice Collazo as the new general manager, taking over from Cockerill, along with Vincent Etcheto, Christian Labit, and Antoine Battut. Jeremy Valls and Benson Stanley will continue to oversee the kicking game and defence, respectively.
Cockerill’s departure from Montpellier marks the end of an era that began in the 2021/22 season when he joined Eddie Jones’ coaching staff after leaving Edinburgh. Last February, after England’s Six Nations loss to Scotland, the RFU confirmed Cockerill’s departure at the end of the campaign. In his statement, Cockerill expressed disappointment about not continuing beyond the Six Nations and missing the opportunity to stay for the Rugby World Cup.
As Montpellier undergoes this coaching upheaval, the team’s future direction remains uncertain. The changes initiated by Laporte reflect a commitment to a fresh start, and fans will be watching closely to see how the team responds under the new coaching regime.