Edinburgh Rugby: A Look Forward to the 2018/19 Season

Under the direct, effective guidance of Richard Cockerill, Edinburgh, against all expectations, made the play-offs in the new Pro14 competition and qualified for the Champions Cup for the first time since the 2013/14 season.

With Edinburgh now on the up and set to face Europe’s best once more, how will they fare next season?

Pro 14

In the Pro 14, Edinburgh will hope to better last seasons’ finish and progress further into the play-offs this time.

Richard Cockerill will not want standards to slip domestically even with the increased standards of the Champions Cup requiring more of his squad. Furthermore, this is Cockerill’s second season: these are early days for him, and even though the team performed much better than he would have expected, he will expect Edinburgh to maintain and better their previous performance. Opening fixtures away at Ospreys and Ulster will not scare the players or the fans going into this season so there is an opportunity for a good start. The strong core developed last season at Edinburgh, along with additional signings, can achieve the play-offs again this coming season – qualification is the minimum expectation.

Europe

In the Champions Cup they have an extremely tough group and won’t really be expected to get out of it. The pool consists of high spending French powerhouses Montpellier and the Toulon ‘Galacticos’, rounded off with a Newcastle Falcons side whose evolution under Dean Richards saw them contest the Premiership play-offs last season. Many fans, including me, will see this as an incredible challenge and Edinburgh will no doubt be the underdogs of this group. This might suit them nicely; no expectation to qualify and a higher level of regular opposition for a young developing squad provides Edinburgh with a chance to create a new standard of consistent performance thanks to the higher level required.

Despite the positives of Champions Cup rugby the first victim of Edinburgh’s new-found success could, unfortunately, be themselves. They will have a larger target on their back because of what they are capable of, meaning increased effort against them from all teams in the Pro14. The demand for higher intensity performances every week, allied with the second front of the Champions Cup, could prove to be crippling on Edinburgh’s resources. Over the course of a year their league standing domestically could suffer as a result, leaving fans feeling nostalgic about the highs of last season.

Transfers

Sam Hidalgo Clyne and Duncan Weir both had great ends to the season and won crucial games during the campaign – such as Weir masterminding the comeback victory away at Connacht. Now departed, Sam Hidalgo Clyne moves to Pro14 play-off rivals, the Scarlets, while Weir moves on to the Gallagher Premiership with Worcester. They are not the only ones to have left: Cornell Du Preez, Jason Tovey and Phil Burleigh have all moved on. Other than Jaco Van der Walt, that left a serious lack of options at 10 and if Van der Walt were to get injured, who comes in – Calum McLelland?

Although there has definitely been a clear out in some key positions, Cockerill has not forgotten to fill in what has been vacated and has recruited plenty of new players.

From the Academy, Jason Baggott (standoff), George Taylor (centre/wing) and Charlie Shiel (scrum-half) have been promoted to the senior squad. Matt Scott returns from his stint at Gloucester, Henry Pyrgos makes the switch from Glasgow and Simon Hickey, a Kiwi fly-half from Bordeaux Begles, joins to bolster the squad in that key playmaker role. The additional signing of Juan Pablo Socino, a fly-half/centre, from Champions Cup opponents Newcastle Falcons, provides crucial midfield cover for internationals like Scott, Bennett and potentially even Chris Dean, depending on how his year goes.

In the pack, John Barclay also joins the squad, but won’t be fit until after the new year, so newly capped Luke Hamilton, formerly a Leicester Tigers back-row under Cockerill (just) has also been added. These are all quality signings with the potential to improve the side from the previous year and there is a scattering of international talent like Pierre Schoeman, Senitiki Nayalo and Pietro Ceccarelli to fill out depth and cover.

Cockerill has recruited both Scottish and foreign players, meaning this squad should be well stocked for the full season provided not too many of the top class signings are called up to the national squad. The forward pack is not quite at the level of other sides like Munster and Leinster, but the strengthening of that unit will come with experience and playing time. Their attitude last season was excellent and the new signings can only improve things, you hope.

Next season will be a new challenging experience for what is still quite a young group of players, but one they will relish. With the bullish winning mentality created by Richard Cockerill, Edinburgh will be expected to compete on both fronts this season: not only to match last season’s accomplishments but to exceed them.

Glasgow Warriors no longer bear the sole responsibility of representing Scotland on the biggest stage of European club rugby; Edinburgh will not be prepared to lie down and will be looking to send a message to the teams of Europe as to why they belong at this level.

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I am a big rugby fan with loads of opinions on the game. I am an Edinburgh and Scotland supporter, and the British and Irish Lions when they tour. I am a current player with my local rugby club and will experience any new aspects introduced to the game. I am also a big film fan and history lover.
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20 comments on “Edinburgh Rugby: A Look Forward to the 2018/19 Season

  1. Alister on

    Totally agree this year may be tough and won’t be at all surprised if it feels like we’re taking a step back but I believe, as long as we don’t do anything stupid, this would be good for us.

  2. FF on

    Really excited to see this new backline taking shape to pose more threat behind an excellent pack. Just hope they have the coaching to get the most out of them. Cockerill is proving better than anyone expected or hoped but I think hodge is still backs coach? Not convinced he’s good enough tbh

      • FF on

        No idea, better to wait and see what they can do in Edinburgh colours…

        Hickey seems to be the one fans are projecting the biggest hopes onto. Personally I’ve never seen him play.

  3. Andrew on

    First 23 something like this?

    1:Schoeman
    2:Mcnally
    3:Berghan
    4:Gilchrist
    5:Carmichael
    6: Bradbury (Barclay if and when fit)
    7:Watson
    8:Mata
    9:Pyrgos (Hopefully challenged by Shiel)
    10: Hickey
    11:Fife
    12:Scott
    13:Bennett
    14:DVM
    15:Kinghorn

    16: Cherry
    17: Sutherland
    18:Mccallum
    19:Toolis
    20: Ritchie
    21:Shiel
    22: VDW
    23: Socinio/Dean

  4. lochinverboy on

    As a Glasgow fan, I have watched Edinburgh’s progress under Cockerill with admiration. It is brilliant for Scottish rugby. Both teams are capable of building on last year. Lets hope for a good early season head of steam for both. First choice fly halfs remaining fit is my big worry

    • Blake on

      Glasgow Fans now wanting to jump on the possibility of Edinburgh overtaking them in the league , smells like it to me. Glasgow are stale and they need to really dig deep to be top six next season , a world class fullback with no one to feed him how stake is that, everyone has worked it out and how to wind him up. There is loads of good ‘Young Guys’ out there in the leagues , I do not see why they just go to a New Zealander with a scottish parent like Thomas Gordon.

  5. Highland Bear on

    Given the disfunctional incompetence Cockerill found on arrival, the results achieved last season can be filed as ‘over-performance’. Agree with others that this coming season will be tougher, as the Champions Cup fixtures have the potential to derail the season with a series of defeats likely which could puncture any momentum.
    The development of a back division which offers an attacking threat must be an objective, as well as bringing on the promising younger players into hardened ‘veterans’.
    The lack of any world class stars, along with the questions at half back, mean as with last season the collective team ethos will be everything.

  6. Alanyst on

    Mindsets can be changed relatively quickly- and Cockerill seems to have worked wonders there.

    Developing squad talent takes a lot longer…Buying it in is quicker but has risks…is Shiel/Hickey better than SHC/Tovey?

    All in all I think Edinburgh do not have the player base to do much better than last year, but a repeat performance would be more than adequate.

  7. Bazz on

    Actually think Edinburgh have recruited really well in recent seasons and it’s starting to show. The squad this season looks the strongest it’s been.

    1. Dell, Sutherland, Schoeman
    2. McInally, Ford, Cherry
    3. Berghan, Nel, McCallum
    4. Toolis, Carmichael
    5. Gilchrist, McKenzie
    6. Barclay, Ritchie
    7. Watson, Hamilton
    8. Mata, Bradbury
    9. Pyrgos, Shiel, Kennedy
    10. Hickey, VDV, Soccino
    11. VDM, Hoyland
    12. Scott, Dean, Soccino
    13. Bennett, Johnston
    14. Fife, Graham
    15. Kinghorn, Fife

    • Toonie's Advisor on

      Luke Crosbie should be on this list. Was playing really well last season.

      Jason Baggott at 10 too. He was good for Melrose last season could push on this season, albeit, gametime may be limited.

      Is Tom Brown still an Edinburgh player?

      • Rory Baldwin on

        They wheel him out a lot for PR gigs, appearances etc but there is no word if he will make an appearance on the pitch any time soon. He’s still listed on their squad page.

  8. Scot95 on

    Could it be worth the SRU orchestrating a move for one of Edinburgh’s looseheads to Glasgow. When everyone is fit there’s a bit of a logjam in the capital with Dell, Marfo, Schoeman, Dickinson and Sutherland. The 4 scots could all be up for selection to a matchday 23 for the national team whilst Glasgow only have Bhatti and Allan as well as Kebble. For Scotland it would help to have a better spread of our front row stocks

    • FF on

      Including Dickinson in that list is optimistic to say the list. Not to mention that Marfo barely played last year – has he recovered from his disc problem?

    • Jamie on

      His tackling is poor as is his skill under the high ball. I’d be shocked if he plays regularly again. The others are more complete wingers.

  9. Jamie on

    I think Edinburgh will do well this year. If Hickey is class then Edinburgh have the squad to get 2nd,
    Otherwise it’s 3/4th position.

    • Merlot on

      I see no reason why we shouldn’t top the conference. Obviously Leinster and Scarlets are the favourites but we should definitely beat them at home. If we don’t get at least 3rd it’ll be a disappointing season.

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