Head Coach Cockerill Gives Update on Depleted Edinburgh Squad

It was not the triumphant return to Pro14 competition that Edinburgh fans and players alike would have hoped for as Richard Cockerill’s men were defeated 34-16 by Zebre in Parma. On Monday, Cockerill discussed how injuries and international will continue to affect his squad this week against Scarlets.

Cockerill leads the Edinburgh players in training. (Photo: Edinburgh Rugby twitter)

Zebre defeat in Parma

Coming back to the Pro14 following a momentous European win over Toulon at BT Murrayfield was always going to be a tough ask, and head coach Cockerill believes that it was by no means a simple right-off loss for his side.

Cockerill told the media: “It was a difficult game to review – we played reasonably well for most of the game. First half we controlled the game very well, but if you make simple errors…There were three really cheap tries for nothing and the game was easy from us.

“We gave them cheap points. We’ve got some young guys in there that were playing for the first time and they slowly started to run out of energy. You have to learn the lessons of that.”

Edinburgh will certainly have to learn how to subdue an opponent’s comeback, as the Scottish side actually ran in at half-time leading the Italians 3-13. However, the home side came back with a vengeance in the second half.

Cockerill admitted: “I expected us to stay in the fight a little bit more, and I expected a bit more from some of our senior players at times. They had all their internationals back in the squad, which was pretty unhelpful to us. But that’s what you get if you’re inaccurate and you miss vital parts of the game when it’s a really tight fixture anyway.”

Lack of guidance from experienced players

With nearly 20 players missing from his squad – the majority to international duty with Gregor Townsend’s Scotland side, and the remaining injured – Cockerill was looking for the few experience players he had left to guide his young starts.

Unfortunately for Edinburgh, their experience did not seem to have as much influence on the game as many would have hoped. Cockerill explained: “I’m just disappointed, because we’re better than that.

“I don’t feel let down, because the players worked hard. We had the majority of our team away until Wednesday, Parma is the hardest place in the world to get to – that’s not an excuse – but it’s not a perfect week. However, with the start that we had and the tactics we had . . .  But you can’t give cheap tries away.

“I’m pretty cheesed off that we didn’t get anything from the game. But in the context of where we’re at, we’re playing very deep into our squad, and sometimes there’s a bit of pain that comes with that.”

Every team goes through times of having to regenerate their lineups – either due to Scotland call-ups or injuries – and unfortunately for Edinburgh, both have come along at the same time.

Cockerill acknowledged this, saying: “We’ve got a very difficult period coming up. It is what it is. We’ve got to work hard with the players we’ve got. We’ll beg, borrow and do whatever we can to get a team out.

“It will be a challenge, won’t it? But the only way for young players to get blooded and learn is, you have to take a bit of pain on the way. We’ll just see how much pain on Friday.  We turn up and win – I think we should all go on the piss.”

Injury updates

Cockerill did give an update on his squad’s injuries woes, and prospective return dates for some of the players. Many fans were wondering about the status of forward Magnus Bradbury following a shoulder injury he picked up during the Toulon win.

Cockerill confirmed: “We’re just deciding whether Magnus needs surgery, which is probably the case. If he has surgery that will be, I would say, 16 weeks [recovery time].”

Luke Crosbie is another young forward who will be out due to injury – he suffered a broken jaw in Parma, meaning he will probably be looking at roughly six weeks out to recover. The team will also be without stand-off Jaco Van Der Walt until possibly the end of November, as he had to pull out of the Zebre game after suffering a pulled hamstring.

In order to provide cover for these additions to the injury list, Cockerill has called in Ally Miller from the Scotland Sevens set up, Lewis Wynne from London Scottish, and academy player Rory Darge to train with the squad, with the possibility of playing for the capital side this weekend.

Scarlets may have the upper hand

Edinburgh’s next challenge will be coming up against former champions Scarlets. Cockerill recognized that it will be a tough challenge for his depleted squad. He said: “I think they’ve got a deeper squad and they’re a more experienced squad – that’s what money buys. It’s ironic that Blade Thomson is going to be playing against us.”

Thus, the head coach gave the impression that he is simply going to have to take this week as it comes, saying: “Given we’ve got probably 20-plus players missing from our squad of 45, it doesn’t take much to get down to the bare bones, does it?

“So, we’ll see. Who knows? The season’s not over – it’s two games. At the moment things are conspiring against us a little bit.”

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