Richard Cockerill revealed at a press conference this week that WP Nel and Jaco Van Der Walt had the one-year extensions to their contracts optioned, while also revealing that Darcy Graham was not expected to return to play fully for 4-6 weeks – which would put him out of the remainder of the Six Nations.
This was a bit different than the normal releases announcing contract extensions partly because it wasn’t announced by the club’s media team (with accompanying puns) and also unlike every contract that’s been announced this season, we know the exact length of time.
The two players concerned are at very different stages of their careers.
Jaco becomes Scottish qualified this year, in time for the autumn internationals and will, I would think, come under consideration for the national squad. He will be even more in demand if the bridge between Finn Russell and Gregor Townsend remains uncrossed and I suppose that may be predicated on whether Townsend is still in a job come autumn time.
Would Jaco get a start ahead of either Russell or Hastings? It’s unlikely, but I would think it would spell the end for Duncan Weir as Jaco is probably a more complete player than the Worcester player and has the same accuracy off the tee.
Speaking of endings, it may be that the coming of age of Zander Fagerson and the mobility of Simon Berghan will mean that WP Nel has been pushed down to third at best for a Scotland place and is potentially teetering on the edge of missing out altogether. Cockerill was making noises that Pietro Ceccarelli may become surplus to requirements at the club, which would suggest he expects to be able to call on the services of Nel more often especially with the Italian now back in his countries international squad.
At the same press conference, Cockers discussed the future of Simon Hickey and indicated that this was undecided with perhaps both the player and the club weighing up their options and budgets. From the players’ side, I can understand his frustrations because although both he and Van Der Walt have more or less the same number of start for Edinburgh this season it may be that Jaco’s value as a player due to his imminent SQ status just gets him the nod.
If that does transpire the club will need to obtain the services of another standoff. Jason Baggott clearly doesn’t float the coaches boat and he’s on record as saying there are no young Scottish SQ stand-offs that currently meet his approval. I’ve already seen some people mention James Lang as a potential recruit although he plays more often in the centre.
On the back of the conference Cockers also indicated that his squad was almost finalised for next season. There are currently 9 players whose future is undecided beyond the end of this season.
It would be unthinkable that Matt Scott’s contract is not renewed. It looks increasingly likely that John Barclay will hang up his boots. Second rows Jamie Hodgson and Sam Thomson are also out of contract at season end and I’d imagine one if not both of them will be renewed. Hickey, Baggott and Cecciarelli I’ve already mentioned. Young tighthead Jack Stanley I’d expect to be staying which leaves Dougie Fife, who with the full time signing of Jamie Farndale and the extension of Damien Hoyland’s contract looks set to be heading back to the Sevens circuit.
There is also the small matter of the currently loaned out Calum Hunter-Hill. I hear repeated unsubstantiated rumours that he won’t be returning to Edinburgh, all of which have to be taken with a pinch of salt until confirmed by the club.
If my suppositions are in any way accurate that will leave the club with 41 players not including the on loan Matt Smith who may head back west at the end of the season.
So scope for a stand-off and maybe one or two others. Watch this space.