Cockerill Speaks From Personal Experience on the Russell Situation

It has been the hot topic of the last fortnight, and things were no different at an Edinburgh press conference yesterday when Richard Cockerill was asked for his opinion on the current Finn Russell situation.

Cockerill spoke rather candidly about his own experience of a somewhat similar situation. (Photo: Edinburgh Rugby twitter)

Edinburgh head coach Richard Cockerill has said he would have handled the recent Finn Russell situation in much the same way as Scotland head coach Gregor Townsend has.

Speaking at a press conference held at BT Murrayfield yesterday in the run up to Edinburgh’s away trip to Pro14 rivals Scarlets, Cockerill addressed the situation, even going so far as to reveal he himself had been in a none too dissimilar situation in his playing days.

“For me, Gregor has no choice but to do what he’s done,” Cockerill said. “Players can’t run the team – coaches run the team. It’s as simple as that.

“From my own experience and my own opinion, Gregor has done exactly what he should have done. Sometimes you have to flex your muscle and put a stake down – ‘This is what we do, this is how we operate. Sorry, whoever doesn’t want to operate within that, then hard lines’.”

Discussing the unrealistic situation of one player dictating an environment for all, Cockerill firmly stated, “Individuals can’t control the environment.”

“That’s the nature of it. It’s not their fault. I was a player. If it was good then it was great and I loved it. If something went against the team, it’s human nature that there were excuses all over the place. A coach has to be consistent and send the same message every time,” he added.

Cockerill heard that very type of message from a head coach in his playing career, as the former English front row had his international career abruptly cut short following a rather public falling out with Clive Woodward.

“Look, I know from personal experience,” Cockerill admitted. “In ‘99 I wrote a book where I criticised Clive Woodward. He dropped me and never picked me again. If I had my time again I’d do something very different. As a coach, now I sit in his shoes, what he did was exactly right.

“I never played for England ever again, he won the World Cup and I watched it on telly.

“That’s a choice I made. He wanted me to apologise, I refused and we went on our different ways.”

The former player looks back at the situation differently now that he has taken a head coaching role, saying, “What I should have done was have those conversations in private. That’s where it should probably stay.”

Cockerill evidently learned from his past indiscretions, as he also revealed that he has worked to ensure he has a good relationship with his players, especially in instances of internationalists returning from test duty.

“I know them as individuals and we sit and have a cup of tea and a chat – ‘How’s it going? How did it go? What did you like, what didn’t you like?’ All those things. It’s not a new thing for me, because we’ve done it loads of times.

“I want them to feel a bit more comfortable, and a bit happier.”

They are still under no illusion as to who sets, and maintains, the standards within squad however, as he clearly stated, “You can ask my players, they don’t decide how we operate. There are parts where players have input, but the rules and who enforces them, it’s the coach.”

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