Scottish Rugby News and Opinion


Cockerill appointed as new Edinburgh head coach

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Former Leicester Tigers man Richard Cockerill has been appointed Head Coach of Edinburgh Rugby from the start of next season.

The three-time Premiership winning coach has signed a two-year deal and will relocate to Scotland for the new role after his current consultancy spell with Toulon. It’s a big call to move to Scotland, as you have to think any French offers on the table would be big money. But if he can turn this particular ship around…

After two spells playing for Leicester and two years at Montferrand, Cockerill spent 12 years in coaching roles at Leicester Tigers, rising through the ranks to become Head Coach in 2009 and then Director of Rugby in 2010.

He led the team to Premiership semi-finals every season he was in charge and won back to back titles in 2009, 2010 and a subsequent title in 2013.

During his time with the club he also reached the Heineken Cup Final in Edinburgh in 2009 and won the LV Cup in 2012.  Although in later years, and this season in particular – see defeat to Glasgow twice in Europe – he had to get used to losing more often. One thing is for sure, his players won’t be mollycoddled post-match if they put in sub-par performances.

Edinburgh Acting Head Coach Duncan Hodge will remain in his current role until the end of the season and then return to his previous position as backs coach with the club.

Edinburgh Rugby’s assistant coaches Stevie Scott and Pete Wilkins remain in post, although presumably, Cockerill will have some choice of backroom staff going forward as that has often been an issue with previous regimes having to wait out the contracts of coaches (and indeed players) brought in previously.

Cockerill joins a decent length list of potentially unpopular ex-England forwards to drop anchor at the capital club; let’s hope he’s more Andy Robinson than Neil Back. One thing is for sure he’s no mug and will attempt to instill the required club culture.

The current crop of Edinburgh forwards who already have the makings of a decent unit especially in the set-piece,  could grow into a fearsome proposition under his care and attention.

54 Responses

  1. Think this is a great appointment – good for Edinburgh and good for Scotland. Edinburgh has a decent pack which will only become better under Cotterill, with Hodge being allowed to concentrate on getting his new backline to gel.
    Can see Scotland eventually becoming Edinburgh pack with Glasgow backline, a bit like the Munster-Leinster axis of Ireland a few years back.

  2. Jeez Merlot, bit early to be hitting your namesake tipple so hard isn’t it, especially on a Monday morning

  3. Excellent news – he didn’t get Leicester to all those AP finals and semis just by shouting. He just may be exactly the right man for 2 years.

    Downside is neither of our pro sides having a Scottish head coach, but if both are winning games, I doubt anyone will really care.

    I look forward to his views on the standard of PRO12 reffing.

  4. Expect there will be some scared little bunnies in the Embra dressing room this morning. No more comfortable hiding place where underperformance is unchallenged.
    A start would be weeding out the dross from the squad. Petrie will be a busy man.
    Also anticipate pressure on the assistants who have not been held to account for their coaching failures. Cockerill is a ferocious winner and will use the job to re-establish his credentials for a move back to the Premiership. Looking forward to a very different Edinburgh when he leaves.

    1. Have to agree. Non-performance isn’t going to be an option.

      Probably the best we could have hoped for, for Embra at this stage. Give him his two years, repair Embra and instill a winning culture and repair his cv at the same time.

      Don’t expect expansive rugby, but that’s not where Embra’s strengths are right now.

      I’ve not been a fan of his in the past, let’s hope I’m wrong.

      As for his thoughts about the standard of Pro 12 referees, well, there ought to be some serious entertainment value there.

    1. Why? I mean as DOR I’m sure he’s had some role but I’m sensing the ever-present need to pin perceived negative developments on Scott Johnson as if he is the be-all and end-all of what’s been wrong with the SRU for the past 22 years, rather than DOR when the Scottish clubs and national team have been improving. It’s bizarre.

      1. you say that but your the person who brought it up as if it was being suggested in a negative way about scott johnson

  5. Think it’s a very good move, he has great pedigree and won’t stand for the rubbish served up this season. Remember it’s only 15 months ago Edinburgh beat Glasgow twice albeit with home advantage. He’ll need to appoint someone to help sort the back line out though, basics like passing and kicking are poor. For that I would look to Dan Parks as assistant coach to steady the ship and get them nailing the basics and playing with proper structure.

    1. I think you should expand this running joke to suggesting Dan Parks for pretty much any role – forwards coach, physio, DoR, lock. There’s potential here.

      1. You missed out water carrier and bag man. Parks could easily cover those jobs as well as the ones you have listed.

  6. Raises the question of the back up staff. I’d like to see Hodge get the heave-ho. No real evidence he’s had any positive impact on the squad, been around for ages, provides continuity with a culture of mediocrity. Let’s start afresh rather than threaten to promote him when Cockerill departs.

    1. Rather agree with you on this one FF. He’s had years as backs coach for both Scotland and Edinburgh and there was significant regression in both.
      The current basic skill sets and decision making of the Edinburgh backs are very poor, and he has to accept the responsibility for this. I doubt that he will.
      I’m not sure whether Scott justifies his continued presence either.

    2. Edinburgh play a better brand of rugby these days and their backs are improving which Hodge is responsible for as backs coach.

      Scott and Wilkins oversee the forwards (who underperform) and the defensive which is a sieve.

      1. I think that’s a bit harsh on Scott – the forwards even without 4 props – Nel, Dicko, Sutherland & Bergman – are still going well in last 3 games, Toolis is taking virtually every lineout ball, so the set piece is fine which is surely Scott’s core brief. Attack & defence are a very different story.
        Re the Scott Johnson involvement – Cockers is known as someone who doesn’t exactly suffer fools gladly, Scott Johnson is his boss, and also thought by many to be the biggest fool in the employ of the SRU – which means he’s up against some pretty stiff competition – all of which should make for some interesting ‘review meetings’

  7. Quite simply the very best appointment that Edinburgh have made based on available candidates and wages available.

    The ‘failings’ (when you actually examine the table they are not that far off !!!) at Leicester were as a result of the shoehorning in of Mauger and the conflict this caused in terms of ownership and style. I can only assume that having had his fingers burnt with this previously, Cockerill will have demanded a degree of autonomy which I actually think is also a good thing fro Edinburgh and as stated above could absolutely benefit Scotland who clearly are comparatively weak at the set piece and rolling maul.

    What I would like Edinburgh to do now is focus on clearing the deadwood and having a 2/3 year strategy in developing / recruiting players based on Cockerils vision of how he wants his team to play

  8. Let’s hope Cockerill isn’t allowed to repeat the Solomons approach in bringing in a host of non-Q journeymen and releasing the calibre of Alex Allen, Lee Jones and Girth to name 3. Thankfully Townsend’s vision got some of their careers back on track. I’m conscious also that Leicester were not good to watch while accepting they were a successful side. Hopefully the transition to the Pro 12 will encourage Cockerill’s attacking instincts. I like the approach to analysis some of the ex-front row bring eg David Flatman though not ‘worst Lion ever’ PW.
    Final word from Martin Castrogiovanni: “Cockers, what is the English for c**t?”

    1. Winning rugby matches eclipses any notion of entertining fare. We have a chip on our shoulder in Scotland about globogym rugby as the latest Irish or English forward pack walks over the top of us and claim the moral high ground. Cockerill has been brought in to add professionalism and execution to Edinburgh.

    2. I think in the short term winning is more important than filling Myreside. And if they start to win filling a wee ground shouldn’t be beyond them.

  9. This is the proverbial cat amongst the pigeons! I’m looking forward to seeing the impact Cockers has on the dressing room, and what the butcher’s bill is in terms of clearing out passengers.

    Leicester under Cockerill were a very successful side. Perhaps he stayed there too long, but there are also issues with the clubs reluctance to spend money to match the alleged salary cap busters at Sarries, Bath and Wasps.

    Buckle up everyone, it’s going to be a bumpy ride :0)

  10. It’s a good appointment. Cockerill, with his track record over several years at Leicester, is absolutely the right kind of coach to galvanise Edinburgh. Speaking as an Edinburgh fan, I think this gives them a good chance of catching up with the standard set by Glasgow in recent seasons. But the bigger picture for Scotland international rugby is the aim that for me transcends inter-club rivalry. Two pro sides performing really well in the Pro 12 and Europe give us a stronger foundation for success in Test rugby.
    I know little about the detail of the events that led to Cockerill’s departure from Leicester, but I’m guessing (and hoping) that he feels he has a point to prove to his former paymasters and that he will go all out to prove it by turning Edinburgh around.

  11. Surprisingly positive comments from everyone so far. I thought it would be more along the lines of “nice one SRU, appoint another dinosaur to strangle the club’s natural style and subject us to another few years of boring pack-dominated backward mediocrity why don’t you”. Have to say I’m impressed that they got such a big name with the budget though. I hope my pessimism is misplaced – would be a real novelty to see Edinburgh be competitive.

  12. This feels like a good move, I have no doubt he will bring experience and networks that will benefit Edinburgh and Scottish Rugby.

    1. Now I have got used to the idea, the plusses definitely outweigh the negative. Basically zero tolerance of no shows. Clear deadwood. Build winning culture. Install club ethos.

      Well qualified for all of these.

      Doubt whether we’ll hear anything about reviews between him and The Invisible Man (aka TFB). But he will need to be physically restrained to not comment on the referees.

      All in all, “interesting times” as the Chinese would say.

      1. Cockerill is very good appointment, the main issue is here that we may not have the money to keep him if he performs well (much like Vern Cotter) does anyone else see that Cockerill could be an Andy Robinson and get promoted upstairs after a couple of seasons?

      2. We could have kept Cotter. He was moved on to make room for a Scottish coach at the top, not for anything to do with money. Personally I think if Cockerill proves his worth they can find money to keep him (like they have done other big assets like Hogg), whether he’d want to stay is another thing but if he makes us top 6 with a decent platform it’ll be much easier to find a qualified replacement.

  13. While Edinburgh do need to front up, their real problem is their backline – it’s a straight up shambles.

    Of the current squad, Hoyland and Kinghorn are really the only players capable of competing for a spot in the Scotland team going forward. What Edinburgh & Scottish Rugby need are backs who can keep up with the skill level & talent of their Glasgow counterparts, otherwise Scottish rugby and Edinburgh will not move forward. This will become especially critical under Townsend as a skills based approach will be at the heart of what Townsend tries to do with Scotland. If Edinburgh are playing bash-it-up rugby while continuing to recruit NSQs to paper the chasm in their back division like they have been, I don’t see how they will be able to up their contribution to the national set-up in the foreseeable…

    To add to this, with the three year rule set to be extended to five, residency players will no longer be viable as the Return On Investment will be too low and they will take too long – International rugby will no longer be a dangling carrot to entice overseas talent to our shores. Scottish rugby HAS to focus on identifying players who are already SQ (a la Huw Jones) or are coming out of the academies and build a unified play style around their physical attributes – something Glasgow have done very well in recent times. There are plenty of SQ lads out there, the Edinburgh management just have to make Edinburgh somewhere players WANT to be.

    My main concern is that in the rush for fast results, Cockerill just brings in a couple of NSQ marquee big lads to truck it up in the midfield, emptying the coffers in one fell swoop. I’m hoping he’s learned his lesson from Tuilagi and Toomua – injuries are just too prevalent in rugby to focus on high profile individuals over elevating quality across a squad.

    Further to all this, the SRU have to be significantly more flexible when it comes to moving players at a younger age – the talent is around to have both Glasgow and Edinburgh well stocked with SQ players – it just takes a bit of gerrymandering. As of next year Glasgow will have Gray, Cummings, Swinson, & Hunter-Hill in their 2nd row, all vying for Scotland inclusion, meanwhile Edinburgh will have Toolis and that’s about it…

    I’d suggest Edinburgh need a shot in the arm, talent-wise. I think they should take Hunter-Hill, Paddy Kelly, and maybe even Josh Henderson (though that would be a pretty painful loss for Glasgow). In exchange Glasgow need a young winger (McCann or Robbins).

    Lastly, I hope Cockerill institutes Hamish Watson as captain next year. The guy has given so much to Edinburgh and at times gotten so little in return. He’s the only Edinburgh player guaranteed Scotland inclusion at the moment and I can’t see that changing until Matt Smith and Matt Fagerson are a bit older.

    1. Edinburgh’s backs next season will have Weir (in Scotland 23 at the moment), Bennett, Hoyland, Kinghorn all there or thereabouts on the Scotland scene. SHC needs his form rehabilitated but he’s another capped player with potential to play much above himself. Edinburgh’s backs shouldn’t be the basket case they currently are.

      Second row stocks are also nowhere near as unbalanced as you claim. Carmichael has been v good out of the u-20s, Bresler will be Scottish qualified soon, Gilchrist is capped, in the Scotland squad and formerly Cotter’s choice of captain. Add to that MacKenzie, exactly the type of solid player needed when test windows come round and no mug at all.

      Personally I’d don’t like the SRU shifting players between the pro-teams unless the players themselves are actively seeking a move and want to stay in Scotland. It is damaging to morale.

      IMO 80% of Edinburgh’s personnel problems is environment, culture and coaching. The raw elements are there for a competitive side but it will take time to develop the squad like Glasgow. They have developed guys through their system not recruited the finished product.

      1. I have to disagree, Weir is there through the absence of better options, which are on the way. SHC is not a scrum half and from what I’ve seen never will be. He doesn’t have the ingrained precision of pass to trouble the international arena again (and it’s why he’s struggling even at club level) – unless they move him to fullback or wing his potential as a player will never be fulfilled.

        I did say current squad so Bennett is the exception, though even he will need to up his game if he wants to compete when Taylor is back fit.

        Bresler will never play for Scotland unless there is a horrendous run of injuries. I really like Carmichael but would be amazed if he makes it through the taller trees to seriously trouble the national side. Mckenzie’s a decent big lad but again not an internationalist and Gilchrist looks the part but through injury or whatever hasn’t delivered and is slipping further down the pecking order each day. If Cummings had been fit this season, he’d be in the Scotland squad right now ahead of Grant.

        The morale drop from moving established players is exactly why I think the SRU needs to do it at a younger age. Hunter-Hill was actually a Stew Mel lad so has every right to be aligned to Edinburgh. With Glasgow having Gray, Cummings, and Swinson they’ve got 2nd row overload. As a Glasgow fan, I’d love to have Hunter-Hill as well as I think he’s mustard, but from a Scottish perspective the talent needs spread. The holes in both teams need identifed earlier and filled – for instance Glasgow desperately need a young Scottish winger but have none on the way through. Edinburgh, meanwhile have 3 or 4 young wingers on the way – they can’t all play for Edinburgh. If you shift one you ensure both teams have what they need and that talented Scottish youngsters are getting their opportunity to shine. It’s in everyone’s interest to be more flexible. With only two clubs, Scottish rugby cannot afford to end up in a situation where one of its sides has just two SQ players in the 10, 12, 13 channel, which is exactly what Edinburgh have at the moment. You should have about 6 or 7 SQ lads in that area.

        For too long I think people have written off Edinburgh’s lack of success as a sympton of poor coaching or confidence issues but the hard reality is they simply don’t have the backline talent to challenge the top 6 of the Pro12.

      2. A couple of excellent posts Robbie.
        Weir, while a cult player at Glasgow, is a poor man’s Dan Parks and with his limited play isn’t going to be the fly-half to unleash a back division. Mind you, if Cockerill builds a mean and hungry pack – there is good potential there with many of the current squad under-performing-Weir may have his uses if a limited strategy is required to kill off more expansive teams with weak packs.
        Where Edinburgh are extremely weak is at scrum-half. SHC’s decline has been well-documented here and Kennedy hasn’t reached the heights he achieved in Glasgow. It may be worthwhile persevering with the latter but what Edinburgh really need is someone along the lines of Ruan Pienaar.

  14. Edinburgh could do worse than trying to pick up Jackson and Hastings. That plus Bennett, Hoyland, Kinghorn and if he turns it back around SHC. Factor in the pack and it’s a somewhere near a half decent team with a Scottish spine.

    1. Hastings has joined Glasgow. I think for Scotland’s sake Edinburgh should look to give a young FH opportunities rather than Jackson. Possibly Connor Eastgate from the Wasps academy? Edinburgh also have the SA-born Jason Baggott on their academy books. No idea how good he is though.

      1. Eastgate has looked poor so far for the U20s though his style of play would probably suit Cockerill. Again it looks like Glasgow has the future star in Henderson.

        Baggott has been in the academy a couple years and never made an impact at pro level. He’s a decent assett for Melrose but can’t see him continuing in the SRA beyond the end of the season.

  15. Cautiously optimistic. What we need is to stiffen up in defence.

    But actually the most interesting thing he has said is that Edinburgh is a rugby town. It was and can be but needs a team to get behind because it isnt at the moment. At least not in terms of our city team.

    Partly that comes from winning, but also from having an identity. Townsends era has innvolved not only winning but also a sence of pride that it was done with young Scottish lads and couple of exciting Fijians playing exciting rugby.

    Look at Ulster thet haven’t actually won that much but get 18,000 a game. And people are proud to wear their kit round town. The team represents them.

    What I want his reign to achieve is at least a challange for top 4 most seasons but even more I want to be proud to wear my Edinburgh top round town.

  16. Please don’t forget the omni-talented Glenn Bryce in your assessment of Edin backs. IMO Glasgow’s greatest loss under the ‘Help the Neebours’ policy.

  17. Has anyone considered a guy called Paddy Dewhirst? He currently plays with Ayr RFC and Glasgow U20s, extremely good player and has played all across the backline for Ayr at youth level, surely guys like this have to get called up sooner or later.

    Another name that I was tipping to go far was Gregor Paxton, a 10/12/13. He currently plays for Marr RFC as far as I know and has played for Ayr at 1st XV / 2nd XV level, was a Scotland international at U16/18 level and has represented Glasgow at every district level, surely if Edinburgh are looking for young Scottish talent then guys like this are there for the taking.

  18. Dewhirst looks like a good player, as does Darcy Graham of Hawick. The boy has wheels and the quick step of a dancer.
    On another subject. Did anyone see that the match officials for England v Italy U-20 are all Scots. A sign of progress?
    Ref – Sam Grove-White (Scotland)
    Assistant Referees: Mike Adamson (Scotland), Finlay Brown (Scotland)
    TMO: Jim Yuille (Scotland)

      1. Great news Rory! Thought Maybe Glasgows need might have been greater, back up for Hogg etc. But i’m not sure how the acadamy allocation works.

      2. Alignment-wise, Graham was always nominally with Edinburgh as he’s from the Borders catchment area.

        Also I don’t see how Glasgow’s need could possibly be greater then Edinburgh’s right now? I’m a Glasgow fan but we have every starting back in the Scotland squad just about. Glasgow do need a young Scottish winger, but the top brass in the backline has to go to Edinburgh for the next couple of years to address the imbalance. Glasgow should sign McCann or Robbins from the Edinburgh academy and bring back Gavin Lowe from the 7s if they’re looking for a backup for Hogg at fullback.

  19. Interesting that sometime over the weekend, in a BT Sport pre match pitch side discussion on AP stand off movements, Austin Healey – a prat, but knows his stuff when he’s not continually trying and failing to be funny – brought up the name of Tom Heathcote who he thought was very underrated. I think TH is still injured, but might be worth a punt for Edinburgh. He was the future at one time . . .

    And ironically another one who was moved on from Edinburgh, Piers Francis, was the subject of a full page feature in the Times ( English version ) on Saturday about what a success he’s made of his move to Super Rugby.

    1. The more players the SRU control the better, I always seen Heathcote being where Finn Russell is now, even at 25 I see him being a good back up.

    2. I was watching that as well The Chiel. Couldn’t believe it when Healy brought up his name. Of course, he also sounded like a prize idiot by suggesting that Sale could ‘go and get’ Finn Russell. Because presumably playing for Sale would be great for him, rather than playing Champions Cup rugby and rightly getting paid a small fortune by Glasgow

      I always felt with Heathcote that he was a victim of circumstance at Edinburgh. The circumstance being that the back line was filled with journeyman jobbers and lacking a real consistency across the team. When you look at the backs at the time you really understand why, as fly-half, he didn’t have much of a chance. Surprisingly, this was also the beginning of Matt Scott’s stagnation as a player.

      1. Nick De Luca was a real loss for Edinburgh. He may not have quite cracked it at Test level, but as a Pro club player he was excellent. He did a lot of good work in that Edinburgh side.

  20. It all went pot when Michael Bradley / Allan Solomons took over at Edinburgh! Bradley tried hard but never seemed to bring any form (with the possible exception of the Heineken Cup results) Solomons was only ever interested in “jobs for the old boys” in terms of his approach to signing NSQ players.

  21. I was just thinking through it, and I think Edinburgh are actually very close to having very good team.
    For Example, if you pick the best possible team:

    A front row of Dickinson, Ford and Nel is world class when fit, and with backups of the quality of Sutherland, Dell, McInally, Berghan it turns out to be an embarrassment of riches.
    Second Row is decent with Toolis, Gilchrist, Bresler, MacKenzie and others (Carmichael)
    Back Row is very Strong with Bradbury, Du Preez, Watson, (Hardie), Ritchie, Mata to name a few.
    All in all I think Edinburgh currently having a pack that when on Form is good enough for a play-off spot let alone top 6.

    The backs are not as strong but still Good
    Halfbacks are decent Hidalgo-Clyne, Kennedy, Weir and Tovey
    Centres is where Edinburgh come unstuck Bennett is great at 13 but there is no stand out 12 in the squad (Burleigh is too limited IMO)
    Back Three is young and exciting. A possible back three of Kinghorn, Hoyland and Graham in 2/3 years time is a mouthwatering prospect.

    Overall I think if Cockerill can find a good 12 Edinburgh look set. IMO Horne is the perfect man for the Job, he is quality but does not start for Glasgow however he would send Edinburgh’s backline up a level.

    So possible team next year:

    1- Dickinson, 2- Ford, 3-Nel, 4- Toolis, 5- Gilchrist, 6- Bradury, 7- Watson, 8- Du Preez
    9- Hidalgo-Clyne, 10- Weir, 11- Graham, 12- (Horne), 13- Bennett, 14- Hoyland, 15- Kinghorn.

    Not a bad team, not too bad at all.

  22. half backs the biggest issue IMO, SHC has lost whatever he had 2 seasons ago & Weir is simply to slow @ the top level

    1. SHC is still very young (Younger than Price in fact) so I have hope he can rekindle the form of two years ago, if he could I am sure Weir perfomance and speed would drastically improve as well.

  23. Disagree with your assessment of the half-backs CC. Based on his current form, SHC is dire and not worthy of a contract extension. Weir is worthy but limited. Glasgow were happy for him to leave, which says it all.
    Edinburgh need a back 3 with strike runners for next season, not 2 or 3 seasons time. Cockerill has been brought in to produce a revolution. Expect lots of ins, using his contacts in England, and outs getting rid of the dead wood.

  24. Agree with highland bear. Too many passengers at Edinburgh just now and it seems all to easy for certain players to play week in, week out irrespective of performance. You would look at selection in the backs in particular and assume there has been good continuity there. The reality is there is little or no competition for places. It will be good for the likes of hoyland kinghorn and dean to have to earn their position through performance, the latter of the three has arguably earned his position more than most for me but needs help in the middle. Keen to see how Glenn Bryce goes at 13, he could provide a bit of spark that’s been missing.

  25. I think that one of the points made by CC here though is that the players at Edinburgh’s disposal aren’t terrible. Yes we’ve been unlucky with injuries – front row, Gilchrist, Manu, Du Preez etc. – but the main issue has surely been a poor culture and the sum adding up to less than the parts, which is the responsibility of the coaching team. This is particularly true of the backs & makes the decision to retain Hodge even more bizarre IMO.

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