Richard Cockerill Deems Newcastle Game a Must Win for Edinburgh
Earlier this week Edinburgh Head Coach Richard Cockerill spoke to the media about his side’s game against Newcastle Falcons at BT Murrayfield – the first match in their double header of Champions Cup games against the Premiership side. He discussed the return of internationalists, injury updates and the competition in Europe.
Richard Cockerill and his squad have been preparing to face Newcastle in the first match of a double header. (Photo: Edinburgh Rugby twitter)
Return of the internationals
With the autumn international window now closed, Richard Cockerill’s Edinburgh side are once again back to near full strength, injuries excluded, and the Head Coach couldn’t be happier: “It’s Christmas come early. No, it’s good to get everybody back in, for obvious reasons. They’re all fit and healthy, which is good.”
He added: “It’s nice to have a full complement that you can pick from, and you can prepare properly and have a proper training week and have everybody here. It’s a big couple of weeks – it’s a big eight weeks. There’s some big fixtures coming in the next eight weeks across the board.”
It certainly will be a challenging time for the squad who, in the space of those eight weeks, face back-to-back headers with Newcastle and Glasgow, followed by clashes with the Southern Kings and Toulon.
Cockerill believes that, whilst the experience will have been fulfilling for his players, they will appreciate being back with their club colleagues. He explained: “Although it’s great to be away playing for your country, they like to get back to the routine of being at home with their families and coming training and being at the club with their mates.
“It’s just a different environment. They’ve had a week off to refresh and they’re looking forward to playing for their club again.”
Surely the fans will agree with the Head Coach as they look to have their favourite players back in action, in the capital side’s blue and orange.
Whilst the return of the Scotland players is welcome, Cockerill’s team is still affected by some rather high-profile injuries. He gave an update on the progress of these players, saying: “Matt Scott won’t be available this week but will be available for the away game. McKenzie’s getting there, should be for Glasgow. Carmichael’s still not right. Barclay and Bradbury still aren’t fit, but the rest are pretty much ready to go.”
In the face of such a depleted squad during the international window, Cockerill called upon younger players such as Callum Hunter-Hill and Jamie Hodgson to step-up to the PRO14 level for their club. So, whilst he may have liked to have been boosted by injury returns, Cockerill sees the positive that it has allowed less experienced players to have more involvement.
He acknowledged: “They’ve proved they can play at that level and if we need to look after our internationals and there’s opportunity for them to play in the right games, they’ll get those opportunities. That part of it’s the most pleasing part, those guys put their hand up for future selections and also development in the short term, which is good for them.”
This introduction to the Edinburgh side means that players like Hunter-Hill and Hodgson – along with possibly the likes of Ally Miller and Lewis Wynne – may be called upon once more when the Six Nations once again has an effect on Cockerill’s squad options.
The Edinburgh squad has been boosted by the return of all internationalists. (Photo: Edinburgh Rugby twitter)
Form in Europe this season
Edinburgh have proved to play rather well in their European encounters thus far this season, and Cockerill will be hoping to emulate such performances as those displayed against Montpellier and Toulon in October.
He explained that the squad will be looking to prove themselves now that they have their numbers boosted, saying: “We’ve got a confident group of players. The reflection of the past few weeks has not been of the real Edinburgh team because we’ve not had our players.”
Ultimately, he believes: “That’s life, you have to take it on the chin.”
Recent form will not hold Cockerill or his players back however, as he stated: “The season, for me, is not even halfway through and there is a lot to play for. We’re still in Europe, that may change in the next fortnight, but we’ll see.
“The league is very much alive. We’ve had a tough start and not been as good as we should have been but we will be battling for 21 rounds and looking to get into the play-offs and back into the Champions Cup, because that is where we want to be.”
Challenge posed by Newcastle
This Friday, Cockerill’s men face Newcastle Falcons at BT Murrayfield in the first of their double header against the English Premiership side. The game, which kicks off at 7:45pm, will be a crucial one for this Edinburgh side.
Cockerill explained: “We need to win. If you’re going to qualify out of the group, then you’re going to need to win three of the last four games – at least – to give yourself an opportunity. Newcastle at home has to be a game that we target to win – and probably the away game as well. I’m sure they’ll be thinking the same.”
In the Premiership, Newcastle have suffered from some rather lacklustre form, but they seem to have flourished somewhat in Europe. Cockerill addressed their form, saying: “They are two from two in Europe. They had a good win at the weekend at the death away at Northampton. They are still bottom of the league, though, so that just shows how tough the Premiership is. You can have one win and be sixth, or have one loss and end up bottom by the end of the weekend.”
In this sense, it could be said that their run this season is not dissimilar to Edinburgh’s own – a fact Cockerill himself accepted, saying: “Their form has been pretty mixed, a bit like ourselves.”
He also believes that there is no need for him, or his fellow coaches, to draw upon any kind of motivation promoted by the line that the Newcastle game will be a Scottish team facing an English side.
Cockerill explained: “We’re about being a good team and being good pros and making sure we get a good performance. There’s only so many times you can tap into the emotional bucket to drag it out of them. We just want to be good.
“I don’t care who we play against and what nationality they are, I’m not fussed. I hate anyone not playing for Edinburgh, it makes no difference to me whatever nationality they are. We’ll concentrate on being as good as we can be.”