Cockerill’s Edinburgh Looking to Maintain Impressive European Form
Edinburgh Rugby head coach Richard Cockerill was in high spirits it seemed as he met with the media at BT Murrayfield yesterday. Cockerill discussed a definite departure, a possible arrival and the ethos of having a strong team rather than impressive individuals.
Cockerill’s side claimed another European victory at the weekend against Toulon. (Photo: Edinburgh Rugby twitter)
Front row shake-up
Edinburgh’s forward pack has become a defining feature of their game in recent seasons, overpowering many an opponent in the scrum and set piece alike. Rumours have been swirling this week that the pack may be boosted by the signing of Southern Kings hooker Michael Willemse.
Cockerill played down these reports, saying: “We’re talking to lots of players, he’s one of them. We live in a world of social media where rumours get spun around the whole time. I don’t have anything to tell, really. I might speak to the agent of Kieran Read but he’s not coming, is he?”
One player that has been confirmed as out sourcing a new deal, though not with Edinburgh, is Scotland international prop Allan Dell. Cockerill addressed the recent news yesterday: “Allan won’t be with us next season. As far as I know he’s signed a contract with London Irish. It’s a good opportunity for him and he’s got family that have just moved to London, so it’s turned into a perfect storm for him, he’s had a good offer.”
Edinburgh fans need not fear however, as the club will hardly be left bereft of prop options, especially if new fan favourite Pierre Schoeman continues with his impressive form.
Cockerill discussed the changes in props, saying: “We’ve got Schoeman and [Rory] Sutherland’s done well. [Darryl] Marfo’s a very good player when’s he’s on form, and we’ll have a look at that position as ever and decide what’s the right thing to do.
“Dell is a very good player and the competition here drives everyone to be a good player. I don’t think it’s anything about his playing time, it’s about opportunity. London Irish are coming up and they have a good budget to recruit a squad, and Allan will be part of that. We wish him well but we have six months of our season left and he’ll be an important part of that.”
London Irish are yet to make an official announcement of Dell’s signing, so for now, he will remain an integral member of Edinburgh’s set up as they make a drive to finish off their season on a high.
Triumph in Toulon
Edinburgh displayed a rounded performance against Top 14 side in Toulon over in France at the weekend, overcoming the French giants 28-17. Despite this, when asked to look back at his team’s win, Cockerill stated: “Reflecting is for retirement.”
He did relent however, and admit that the win is substantial in terms of the club’s European campaign: “It’s job in hand, that [Toulon] is history now.
“We have a really good opportunity to qualify top of the group and have a home quarterfinal so that’s our ambition. We wouldn’t have thought that at the start of the pool but now we’ve got to this stage I don’t want us to be congratulating ourselves too much because we’ve actually achieved nothing yet. We can still not qualify, or we could end up somewhere very, very hard in the quarter-final.
“Getting to the quarter finals would be a great achievement for us but we’ve given ourselves the opportunity to beat Montpellier at home and finish top of the group, so I want us to take that.”
One of the defining plays of last Saturday’s game was Viliame Mata’s offload to James Johnstone, who ran in under the posts to finish off an astonishingly impressive attacking play which began with a Blair Kinghorn chip kick.
Speaking about his view of the play, Cockerill admitted: “I thought Jamie Ritchie’s was better for the first try to be fair. Because he’s a little wee Scotsman nobody says anything about it. No look, Jamie’s was a great offload. Vili is a world-class player but you could say that about a lot of our guys at the weekend.
“It’s a great offload but it’s a pretty good take by Johnstone as well. If Jimmy had dropped that I’d have been banging the desk saying ‘Vili keep hold of the ball’. You’ve got to back the guys to play what’s in front of them and I thought the guys did that well at the weekend.”
Mata’s performance against Toulon saw him named Man of the Match. (Photo: Edinburgh Rugby twitter)
Facing Montpellier at BT Murrayfield
All sights are surely now set on challenging Montpellier at BT Murrayfield this Saturday – a game which could secure Edinburgh a quarter-final game at the infamous Edinburgh stadium.
Cockerill explained his mind-set heading in to the fixture will be positive, saying that he will encourage his team to back themselves and their abilities, as he believes if they put their best game plan out on the pitch, then there is a chance that the capital side could claim a historic victory.
It is no secret, however, that Montpellier is a team which contains some astounding individuals – the likes of Louis Picamoles and Nemani Nadolo – but Cockerill believes the ethos of his team could spur them to victory.
He explained: “Across our team we’ve got some great individuals but we’ve got a great collective, and we work hard, we have our way of playing, it works very well, and we’ll continue doing that.
“As you saw at the weekend, when opportunities arose, we counter-attacked, we played very well ball in hand, and we’re finding some confidence and are developing and maturing as a team.”
Ultimately, speculation over the potential result is expected, but only their performance on Friday night will determine Edinburgh’s fate. Cockerill himself understands that everything will come down to the 80 minutes of play, as he asked: “Are we good enough? I’ve no idea.
“Are we going to go and see if we are? Bloody right we are. We’re going to go and play our best and we’re going to give it a crack. If they’re better than us and we play our best, well, fair play to them. But we’ll see.”
Fulfilling sibling duties for Glasgow Warriors
It has been well documented that if Edinburgh win on Friday night, then Glasgow will automatically qualify for the quarter-finals, regardless of the outcome of their game against Saracens at Allianz Park.
Cockerill seemed rather jovial when asked if that fact figured in to Edinburgh’s plans at all, stating: “What you are saying is that Glasgow are relying on us?”
He lightheartedly continued: “There is a change, we can look after our little brothers from the other end of the motorway.
“Scottish rugby is getting stronger and stronger. If us getting to a quarter final helps everybody else then great. If we can help Glasgow on the way so be it, they have a tough afternoon to come at Allianz Park, but we have to focus on ourselves.
“We are a team that is developing and growing. We are nowhere near where we need to be or would like to be, but this is part of the process, but we want to make the most of it.”
Ultimately, finding themselves in the position to qualify for the Champions Cup quarter finals has not only surpassed fans expectations, but also those of the club personnel as well, as Cockerill explained: “We are surprising ourselves really, it is a new adventure for me as a coach and I just want this to keep going.”
Edinburgh face Montpellier at BT Murrayfield this Friday, with the game kicking off at 7:45pm.