Leicester director of rugby Richard Cockerill is confident of signing a top replacement for Toby Flood after confirming the club captain will leave at the end of the season.
The Tigers will enter Christmas deflated by their heaviest Aviva Premiership defeat – a 49-10 loss to Saracens – and the news that Flood is to depart with Toulouse his probable destination.
Either Rhys Priestland or Freddie Burns is expected to replace the 28-year-old, who Cockerill insists still has a key role to play in the ailing champions’ title defence.
“Toby’s leaving us at the end of the season, he told me on Friday. I suspect he’ll be going to France and we wish him the best of luck,” said Cockerill.
“We put our best offer forward but I don’t think it’s a monetary thing, he wants to do something different and sees his chances with England being limited.
“There’s a lot of rugby to go yet, he’s our captain and will be playing until the end of the season if his form dictates that.
“We’ve lost some very big names from this club in the last 20 years but have been OK.
“Toby will go but we’ll cope with it. Nobody is bigger than the club.
“You’d like to think Leicester is an attractive place to come to. We are looking at several options and I’m sure we’ll find someone to do the job for us.”
Saracens’ bonus-point victory produced two tries for Chris Ashton, one each for Jack Wilson, Billy Vunipola and Jackson Wray and a penalty try.
It kept the London club three points clear at the summit of the Premiership and was marred only by Owen Farrell being stretchered off. It was later confirmed he had suffered concussion. Farrell was stretchered off in the 67th minute with his neck in a brace after his head accidentally connected with the hip of Vereniki Goneva while making a tackle.
The 22-year-old was unconscious before hitting the ground and 10 minutes elapsed before he was carried from the pitch having kicked three penalties and two conversions.