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How did the Leicester Tigers lose their bite so badly?

How did the Leicester Tigers lose their bite so badly?
© Reuters
Heavyweights are on a horror run of form.

English rugby heavyweights Leicester are reeling from their worst results sequence for more than 40 years.

Sunday's Heineken Champions Cup defeat against French side Racing 92 was their eighth in succession, leaving them struggling on European and domestic fronts.

Here, Press Association Sport looks at the Tigers' plight.

Just how bad has it been?

Terrible. Tigers' interim boss Geordan Murphy feels that Leicester have sunk to their lowest point in his two decades at the club as a player and coach. The statistics paint a bleak picture. Leicester have not won since defeating Champions Cup opponents the Scarlets on October 19, losing eight games on the bounce in three different competitions. Overall this term, their record shows just four victories from 16 starts, and in nine matches they have conceded more than 30 points.

What have been the underlying problems?

Leicester Tigers v Wasps – Aviva Premiership – Welford Road
Leicester parted company with Matt O'Connor after just one Premiership game this season. (Joe Giddens/PA Wire)

The season could hardly have started on a lower note as Leicester parted company with head coach Matt O'Connor after just one game – a 40-6 loss to Exeter on the Premiership's opening weekend. Murphy then became Tigers' fourth coaching chief in less than 18 months after Richard Cockerill, who left in January last year, Aaron Mauger and then O'Connor, so that revolving door has not helped. Leicester also look considerably under-powered in the forwards – a traditional area of strength – with a star-studded back division having little ball to play with.

Does Murphy need help – and will he get it?

Bath Rugby v Saracens – Aviva Premiership – Recreation Ground
Mike Ford is among those to have been linked with a coaching role at Leicester. (Joe Giddens/PA Wire)

Without a doubt. The former Ireland international full-back is Leicester through and through, having enjoyed an illustrious playing career with them before moving into coaching, but he is a novice at the sharp end and he needs time. An experienced voice as part of the coaching staff would unquestionably assist him, and it looks likely to happen as the club get to grips with what has become a miserable situation. Former England defence coach and ex-Bath rugby director Mike Ford is among those who has been linked with a possible role at Welford Road.

Leicester are effectively out of Europe – what about the Gallagher Premiership?

The Tigers have little chance of progressing from their Champions Cup group, and they are looking at a pool stage exit for the third successive season. It is all a far cry from Leicester's back-to-back European triumphs in 2001 and 2002, while they were also beaten finalists on three other occasions. The Premiership, though, is an equally testing state of affairs, with the record eight-time league champions just three points and four places off the bottom. Only four points currently separate the clubs in fifth and 12th places, and Leicester are well and truly in that mix. Are they too good to go down? No.

Where will it all end?

Northampton Saints v Harlequins – Gallagher Premiership – Franklins Gardens
Paul Gustard will take his Harlequins team to Leicester next Saturday. (Mike Egerton/PA Wire)

That is the 64,000 dollar question. Next Saturday's Premiership home game against Harlequins has assumed huge significance on the back of Leicester's dismal run, and they will meet a Quins side making strides under the coaching guidance of former Leicester player Paul Gustard. After Quins, Tigers face a Premiership trip to Bath on December 30, followed by an appointment with Gloucester six days later. While those matches will not decide where Tigers end up this term, they have to rediscover a winning formula or an already abject season could ultimately plumb unprecedented depths.

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