Cockerill Insists His Edinburgh Side Are Underdogs Heading In To This Year’s First 1872 Cup Match

Edinburgh Rugby Head Coach Richard Cockerill spoke to the media yesterday, discussing his side’s impressive form against Newcastle, taking a reflective look at last year’s 1872 Cup encounters, and looking ahead to the first match of the Cup which takes place at BT Murrayfield this Saturday.

Cockerill in training with Edinburgh Rugby, ahead of the 1872 Cup. (Photo: Edinburgh Rugby twitter)

Inspiration from Newcastle away win

Following wins against Newcastle at home and away at Kingston Park – a win which secured the side their first away win of the season – it is understandable that Head Coach Richard Cockerill is pleased with his team’s recent form. Speaking at BT Murrayfield yesterday, Cockerill said: “Winning away from home was important for us because we hadn’t done it for a little while.

“Just to give us that belief that in big games we can perform, get the little bits right most of the time, and we’re good enough to get over the finish line, as we were on Sunday.”

Despite a final winning scoreline of 8-21, Cockerill’s men had run in at half time trailing 8-6. It must have been a reminder from their Head Coach in the sheds that inspired the Edinburgh men to stage a second half comeback.

Cockerill explained: “We had a lot of territory and opportunity in that first half that we didn’t take. To be down at half-time probably didn’t reflect the half of rugby, so just when we get the opportunities we’ve got to take them, because as the teams get better and stronger that we play, you’ll get less and less opportunities to score.”

Looking back to last year’s 1872 Cup

Last year’s 1872 Cup encounters were hard fought for affairs, as exemplified by the fact that in their match at BT Murrayfield, Edinburgh managed to secure the win despite being reduced to 14 men for the majority of the match, following a red card for prop Simon Berghan.

Cockerill joked: “We played better without him, didn’t we?”

He continued: “For us it was about league points and just us being competitive. I’ve learned very quickly that the derby games are very different games, form sort of goes out the window, and that they’re very much one-off occasions in their own right.

“Those two wins were good wins for us last year to get the 1872, but very much like last year, we’re more interested in the league points than bragging rights, we need the league points. We’ve had a couple of tough weeks and we’ve got a tough couple of weeks coming up.”

Asked if he wanted his team to replicate the character shown in such a bruising encounter, Cockerill replied: “100 per cent. We’ve got to replicate that.”

If they do replicate the character, then perhaps Cockerill’s men can replicate the form which they enjoyed following the Cup games last year. Cockerill discussed whether he thought the games posed as a turning point for his team’s season, saying: “I think it proved to our players that if our mindset was right we could compete and play against the best teams – even with one of our guys sent from the field early on.”

Looking ahead to this Saturday’s first encounter

When quizzed on where he thinks his team stands heading in to the first encounter of this year’s 1872 Cup, Cockerill insisted: “We’re definitely underdogs.”

He continued: “Their league form has been outstanding, they make the most line breaks, they’re scoring over four tries a game on average, so they’re a very good side, aren’t they? But we have a certain way of playing, we control territory and we like to put teams under pressure.

“When they have the ball, we’ve got to put them under pressure this weekend, if we don’t let them play free rein, they’ll hurt us.”

Discussing the team which he may name to try and defeat the impressive form of Glasgow, Cockerill confirmed he would be aiming to choose a full-strength team, stating: “Whoever’s fit, we’ll be picking our best team.”

Whether such a team will include Jamie Ritchie remains to be seen – the forward did not play against Newcastle away having picked up a knock in the Newcastle encounter at BT Murrayfield the week before.

Cockerill gave an update on whether Ritchie will be available for selection, saying: “I hope so and we’ll see. He trained today and we’ll see how that quad is. If he’s right he’ll be in the mix, if he’s any doubt then we’ll look after him.”

Differing styles

The matches will be an interesting affair, as the two teams have developed differently, especially when it comes to style. Cockerill explained: “It’s two very differing styles, because where we are developing, our team is not as far along the same route as them, but we feel we have a strong set piece and we’re a very combative team. We feel if we get our game right we compete with anybody.

“I’m not sure we’re a team that’s set up to run away with games, but we’re certainly a team that can stay in the battle, stay in games and know how to win.

“It’s an interesting contrast, they’ll want to come and play how they play, which is pretty free-flowing, but also they’ll want to prove a point around their physicality and forward pack as well. We had a good season last year, our European form has been good, it sets us up for a great battle against the two pro teams.”

That battle will kick off at BT Murrayfield at 5:15pm this Saturday.

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