Cockerill urges perspective over poor Leicester start
Leicester Tigers director of rugby Richard Cockerill insists it would be foolish to make rash judgements about the club's poor start to the season.
Tigers have lost six of their seven games in all competitions - including Friday's 31-3 LV= Cup loss at Scarlets.
But Cockerill told BBC Radio Leicester: "The reality is we have been playing without our best players. You can judge me and Leicester on that if you want.
"I can't defend it. The stats are right but it doesn't show the whole truth."
A youthful Tigers side with a smattering of experienced players were comfortably beaten in Wales.
But although clearly not happy, Cockerill was not too disheartened.
"We had a lot of young fellas out there and I would like to have fared a little better," Cockerill said. "But we made too many mistakes and it was a disappointing performance and night.
"The lads have to learn the lessons. It was frustrating and disappointing and the players know that as well.
"You don't want to lose but you have to take it into context. We have been missing a lot of players."
The club's fortunes seems certain to improve in the coming weeks with their numerous international stars returning to Welford Road after World Cup duty.
Tigers host Gloucester in their second LV= Cup game on Friday evening before they resume their Premiership campaign with an away fixture against Sale the following Friday.
"There are lots of fringe players that have been playing in the first six weeks that would normally have played in this competition," he added.
"That's life and we have to take the hit and keep working through it."
And Cockerill insists he will not rush back his star players just because they are available.
"We will play guys that are ready to play," he said. "We could have put our best side out [against Scarlets] but that is not the right thing to do.
"There are another 30 games to play and we need to make sure the players are right for that. That's the key.
"In isolation you play with your best side but in two or three months, when they are all shattered and under-performing, it's because you've played in games like the LV= Cup game against Scarlets.
"Guys that are ready and able to play will be in the squad, but I am not going to stick guys out there to get the immediate result.
"We have to look at the bigger picture of the Premiership and the Heinken Cup.
"You have to keep your bottle and trust what you think is right and that is what I will do."