Edinburgh have been plunged into a second prop crisis of the season after Simon Berghan was banned for six weeks for stamping on the head of Scotland team-mate Fraser Brown.
It means not only will the tighthead, who made his first Test start in the thrashing of Australia in November, miss the Six Nations opener against Wales in Cardiff, he’ll also be unavailable for his club through the early part of 2018.
With WP Nel already on the sidelines, and loosehead trio Allan Dell, Darryl Marfo and Al Dickinson also still on the treatment table, Cockerill is light on front-row options. Most of those players would also have featured in Gregor Townsend’s thoughts.
He this week recruited Samoan international Jordan Lay until the end of the season, but he was hardly eye-catching when the Pacific Islanders played at BT Murrayfield at the beginning of last month.
Michele Rizzo, the hardened Italian international summoned earlier this season, appears to be required by Leicester Tigers, the parent club from whence he came to ease the first prop crisis of Cockerill’s tenure. They’ve re-registered him from Europe and tugged the reins to bring him home.
That means that ‘Cockers’ is now left with:
- Rory Sutherland – himself only recently back from a lengthy lay-off
- Matt Shields – on loan from Rotherham, who struggled at times when he filled the spot Berghan vacated in the first 1872 Cup tie and will have to back it up again this weekend
- Kevin Bryce – unconvincing since his switch from hooker
- Murray McCallum – playing at loosehead this weekend and his ability to cover both sides of the scrum could prove crucial.
With Melrose going so well in the BT Premiership – there could be an avenue to restore someone like Grant Shiells, the former Newcastle Falcons and an ex-Scotland ‘A’ cap to the professional game to take the pressure off Edinburgh’s ever-decreasing front-row stock. You can bet that Cockerill has been thumbing through the files of the Exiles programme this week…