Richard Cockerill may have previously described himself as “an arrogant Englishman who expects to win”, but there’s a lot more nuance to the patter that flows from his mouth, as well as a depth of knowledge which most coaches couldn’t even buy off the dark-web.
When speaking of John Barclay’s opinion in his column for The Times in which Barcs stated; “I think Edinburgh still have to expand their game from a slightly old-fashioned direct style or they will be left behind at the business end of tournaments”, Cockers responded:
“I think we still have to develop our game, but John should know, he’d been at the Scarlets and they developed, then gone on and won the competition (Pro14) playing a great brand of rugby, so if anyone should know he should. We play how we play, we like how we play, and it works. We have to find an Edinburgh way to win games and not copy any other teams. You go to Leinster and try to outplay them, or you go to Munster and try to beat them up, you’ll come second. Barcs is entitled to his opinion, and when he’s head coach of Edinburgh he can make those decisions.”
When taken out of context, that last sentence may strike some as “prickly”, (yes, the “l” is meant to be in that word) but it was just an honest man responding to a question. A man who walked through the doors of a club accustomed to the arse-end of the league three years ago, is now four games away from a maiden championship.
That’s the reality for Cockerill, the Edinburgh players and their fans for the remainder of this fractured and shortened campaign. Covetous glances to the west may have been cast in the last few years as the Warriors – despite the odd blip in the domestic derbies – cemented their place as not just the dominant force in Scottish pro rugby, but one of the most feared teams in the league.
But have the tides turned? The “Edinburgh pack v Glasgow backs” narrative seems to be old news. There is still a pragmatism to Edinburgh’s play – which you would expect when your head coach used to be with English powerhouses Leicester – but particularly with a back-three containing the rangy runs of Blair Kinghorn, the whippet Darcy Graham and the battering-ram, “Johnny Bravo”-a-like, Duhan van der Merwe, there’s more than one string to their bow.
When asked if they were favourites, Cockers responded: “Who told you that?! Who said we were favourites? We’ve got a good side, they’ve got a good side. We know it’s evened up over the last few years, but we need a point to get to a semi-final, two wins it’s a home semi. It’s in our own hands.
“We don’t have a huge history of success, but we’ve done well for us. We have to keep our feet on the ground and keep building on what we’re doing. Glasgow have won the competition, they’ve been in finals and semi-finals, so they have that bit of pedigree we don’t have. To win silverware will be huge for us, but we’re at least two good sides away from winning that, and Glasgow are a good side, so if anything it’ll be good preparation for us ahead of any semi-final to play them leading in to a semi-final if we get there.”
Slightly more comfortable with the “favourites” tag, – drum roll please – was blog favourite and potential Lion (I didn’t ask that, someone else did), the venerable, incomparable, breaker of tackles a His Royal Mishness; Hamish “Pinball” Watson, still rocking a glorious, lockdown-induced mullet as of Wednesday morning:
“I think we are (favourites) and I think we’re getting used to that. With this season resuming we have four massive games, but it’s important we don’t look past Glasgow.
We’ve always been pretty good against Glasgow, even when we were struggling in the league a bit, we know what we were like when we only had the 1872 Cup to play for, so it creates it’s own problem. They’ll be dangerous in a very different way, they’ve got a lot to prove to show that they’re still the strongest team in Scotland.
There’s no one especially I worry about playing against, and think “Oh he’s a nightmare”, but it’s their whole vibe they bring as a XV. They’re great boys off the field, but on it they can be a bit niggly, and I’m sure they say the same about us. These games are tough, they’re going to be physical.”
Outwith the match chat, Cockerill has confirmed that he is in discussion to extend his contract to continue the fine work that he, his staff and players have done.
“They (SRU) want me to stay, I have every intention to stay. I’ve invested a lot of time and effort into this project, and if we’re going to get to the end of it I want to be here to see it. I want to see it come to fruition. I’ll be buggered if I’m letting someone else come in and ride on the back of what we’ve built.”
UPDATE (21/8): The teams are out!
Venue: BT Murrayfield, Edinburgh
Glasgow Warriors: Huw Jones, Tommy Seymour, Nick Grigg, Pete Horne, Ratu Tagive, Adam Hastings, Ali Price; Oli Kebble, Fraser Brown (C) Zander Fagerson, Richie Gray, Scott Cummings, Rob Harley, Matt Fagerson, Ryan Wilson.
Replacements: George Turner, Dylan Evans, D’arcy Rae, Kiran McDonald, Tom Gordon, George Horne, Niko Matawalu, Glenn Bryce.
Unavailable for selection: Alex Allan, Adam Ashe, Hamish Bain, Mesu Dolokoto, Sam Johnson, Lee Jones, Leone Nakarawa, Adam Nicol, Aki Seiuli, Kyle Steyn, Brandon Thomson, George Thornton
Edinburgh: Blair Kinghorn, Eroni Sau, Mark Bennett, Chris Dean, Duhan van der Merwe, Jaco van der Walt, Nic Groom; Rory Sutherland, Stuart McInally (C), WP Nel, Andrew Davidson, Grant Gilchrist, Luke Crosbie, Hamish Watson, Viliame Mata.
Replacements: Mike Willemse, Pierre Schoeman, Simon Berghan, Jamie Hodgson, Nick Haining, Charlie Shiel, Nathan Chamberlain, George Taylor.
Unavailable due to injury: Lewis Carmichael, Fraser McKenzie, Ben Toolis, Jamie Ritchie, Henry Pyrgos, Magnus Bradbury, Darcy Graham
Referee: Mike Adamson
Live on Premier Sports 1