Leicester Tigers have appointed Richard Wigglesworth Interim Head Coach after agreeing terms with Steve Borthwick and Kevin Sinfield for an early release from their contracts with the club.
The appointment sees Wigglesworth retire from professional rugby, bringing the on-field career of the English game’s most decorated and accomplished player to a close.
Wigglesworth has made more than 500 senior appearances – including a record 322 Premiership games and 33 Test matches for England – during a more than 20-year professional career.
He made his professional debut in 2002 for Sale Sharks, who he won the first of seven Premiership titles with before moving to Saracens in 2010, where he won three Heineken Champions Cup trophies.
Wigglesworth made 43 appearances for Leicester Tigers, scoring four tries, in two and a half seasons.
Borthwick joined Tigers in 2020, during the COVID-19 pandemic enforced postponement of the 2019/20 season, and has overseen 87 games in charge.
During his first campaign, the recommenced 19/20 season, Borthwick coached the side on 10 occasions and led Tigers to a European Challenge Cup semi-final, while finishing 11th on the Gallagher Premiership ladder.
In his first full season, he oversaw Tigers climb to sixth on the Premiership ladder and reach the European Challenge Cup Final.
His third campaign included a return to Heineken Champions Cup rugby, in which the club reached the quarter-finals of European’s top-tier, semi-final finish in the Premiership Rugby Cup and ended the regular season atop the league table before going on to be crowned Gallagher Premiership Champions – the first for the club in almost a decade.
The 2021/22 season included the club achieving an unbeaten run of 15 games to start the season across all three of the Premiership, Champions Cup and Premiership Cup competitions.
At the conclusion of the campaign, Borthwick was awarded The Director Rugby of the Year award at The Premiership Rugby Awards night.
Borthwick has overseen 14 games in the 2022/23 season.
During his tenure, 73 players have made their Leicester Tigers senior debut and nine players have debuted in senior men’s Test rugby.
Sinfield joined Tigers ahead of the 2021/22 season to take charge of the senior side’s defence after a decorated rugby league career as a player, coach and administrator.
The 42-year-old was part of the coaching team which led the club to its first Premiership title in nine years.
During his time in Leicester, Sinfield continued in his efforts to raise vital funds and awareness for Motor Neurone Disease (MND), completing two major running challenges and raised more than £7,000,000 in two years.
Wigglesworth commences in his new role effective immediately, supported by Head of Physical Performance Aled Walters and assistant coaches Brett Deacon, Matt Everard, Tom Harrison and Matt Smith.
Speaking about his appointment to the role of Interim Head Coach and retirement from playing, Wigglesworth said: “There is so much to be excited about for what is to come for this great group of players, coaches and staff at Leicester Tigers.”
“The decision to retire from playing was not easy. I have given absolutely everything to my playing career and loved every minute of being a professional rugby player.
“My family have given everything too and I, quite literally, could not have achieved what I have without them.
“I would not have taken on the Head Coach role of Leicester Tigers if I did not believe there was a group of players and coaches who are committed to being successful and, with those at this club, that cannot be questioned.
“I am grateful to Steve and Kev for what they have taught me, how they have challenged me and the friendship I have with both. Myself and Leicester Tigers are better for having worked with them.
“While it’s a bittersweet day, there is no time to dwell on anything. There is a job to be done, this weekend at Mattioli Woods Welford Road, against Gloucester and all of my focus is now on preparing the team for our next game.”
Speaking about the appointment of Wigglesworth, Leicester Tigers Chief Executive Officer Andrea Pinchen said: “We are so pleased to be able to announce Richard’s appointment and excited for what is ahead under his leadership.
“The magnitude of his decision to retire from playing is not lost on anybody at Leicester Tigers and Richard has the complete support of everybody at the club.
“His playing career speaks for itself; seven Premierships, multiple European titles and record appearances in the toughest league in the world.
“We have a great group of coaches, players and staff at Leicester Tigers, who we have the utmost confidence in to continue to carry the club forward and be successful, which Richard believes too and is showing by taking on this role.
“Challenges aplenty keep being thrown at us and, as we have shown with each and every single one of them, Leicester Tigers will face any adversity head on and come out the other side better for it.”
Speaking about the contribution to the club of Borthwick, Pinchen said: “The first and most important thing to say to Steve is, thank you.
“He is one of the most hard working and dedicated people I have had the pleasure of seeing up close and his commitment to helping rebuild and reshape Leicester Tigers was profound.
“I know it will be disappointing for many to have this news confirmed, however what we want to do now is celebrate what has been achieved with Steve and the achievements made with him.
“On behalf of everyone at Leicester Tigers, I wish Steve – as well as his wife and two boys – all the best in their next chapter, of which I am certain he will be successful in.”
Speaking about Sinfield, Pinchen said: “Like with Steve, we thank Kevin for all he has done during his 18 months at Leicester Tigers.”
“While only a short stay, his impact at our club will be felt for a long time; the ability Kevin has to inspire on areas like teamwork, mateship and commitment is phenomenal.
“Off the field, as much as he has on the field, Kevin has been a great source of inspiration for so many and feel proud that Leicester Tigers have been able to call him on our own.
“I wish Kevin and his family the very best for what comes next and have no doubt that he will continue to be successful in whatever he does.
“It has been a privilege to have worked with and known both Steve and Kev, from whom I have learned a lot and am grateful to for what they have given Leicester Tigers.”
Leicester Tigers Chairman Peter Tom CBE added: “I thank both Steve and Kevin for their efforts, commitment and contribution to our great club during these past two years.”
“They leave behind strong foundations for Leicester Tigers to continue on into the future and leave behind great memories for us all to have shared in with them.
“To them and their families, I wish great success in the next chapter and know they will achieve even more in what comes next.”
Speaking about his time at Leicester Tigers, Borthwick said: “Thank you to the players and support team for the hard work and commitment and thank you to the Leicester Tigers fans for their wonderful support of the team and me.”
“I will always be a Leicester Tigers fan, always have a great connection to and love for this club after these past two years here.
“Mattioli Woods Welford Road is a special place, like no other, and I look forward to returning as a fan.”