EDINBURGH lock Ben Toolis is confident that some “honest, brutal truth” from Richard Cockerill is exactly what the players need to help them become more consistent. The new head coach certainly gives the appearance of being more driven and demanding than some of his predecessors, and at a meeting on Monday let the players know precisely what he thought of their dismal display against Benetton three days earlier.
Edinburgh’s malaise has gone on for so long that there can be no guarantees that any one coaching method or individual can provide a complete solution. But Toolis’s public comments chime with the opinions being expressed by some players in private: that Cockerill’s heightened expectations can indeed knock them into shape.
“Obviously [after] the result on Friday we knew what was coming from the coaches,” Toolis said of Monday’s meeting. “The general morale wasn’t high at all. We knew we were going to face some honest truths of how we played on Friday night.
“But that’s what we need, and that’s probably what we’ve been lacking in the past – a bit of honest truth. Cockers is always going to give you the brutal truth: that’s the only way going forward. He keeps us on our toes. We found on Friday that you have to perform whoever you play. It was probably the kick we needed to push us on further.
“We had a couple of good results to start the season, but the next couple of weeks are going to be very difficult. We wanted the confidence going into these games but didn’t get the win unfortunately.
“The meeting we had wasn’t enjoyable, but at the same time it needed to happen. After it the boys went out and had a really good [training] session. We’re now looking forward to this week’s game.”
As they bid to bounce back from last week’s 20-17 loss to Benetton, Edinburgh could hardly have been given a tougher task than Saturday evening’s match against the Scarlets – although next week’s game at Leinster will have a similar degree of difficulty. Cockerill will announce his team for the game in Llanelli today, and Toolis believes that whoever is in the starting line-up against the champions can take heart from last year’s win over them. “Obviously it will be extremely difficult, especially down there,” the forward continued. “It’s a tough place to play. That being said, we beat them last year at home when they had big names playing, Jonathan Davies, John Barclay and James Davies as well.
“It’s a different story playing them down there, but I’m sure we can do it if we play well. The loss we took on Friday night will have the boys on their toes to get that back and get a good result. We don’t think we can’t do it. We just need to have the belief that we’ve done it before. Even though we lost last week we’ll be going down there confident. It will be tough, but we can get a result.
“I think it’s quite easy to front up to a strong team like Scarlets, who were champions last year. It’s always easy to get the motivation up towards the stronger team.
“It’s games like against the likes of Treviso, when you are expected to win, that it can be harder to get that motivation. For someone like the Scarlets, I think it will be a lot easier to sort of get the heads straight, stick it to them, and show them what we’re all about.”
At present, it has to be said, Edinburgh are still all about inconsistency: playing well at times, even inspired on occasion, but then falling away badly a game or two later. Toolis thinks that, almost by definition, greater consistency of performances and results will only come once everyone takes responsibility for his own standards and there is a uniform improvement throughout the team.
“We’ve had this environment and this nature where we feel like we’ll be fine, we’ll get out of it and win – but we never actually do. Sometimes maybe the team thinks one individual will do it and step up. But we need to realise it’s a team effort and we all need to step up.
“That’s been a problem in the past. Against Cardiff and the Dragons there was a bit of a change and we got out of the deep end, came away with the win and pushed on. There were positives there. But with teams we would expect to win against there needs to be improvement there. It shouldn’t matter what team you’re playing against – you need to have that motivation to keep scoring points and have a really good win.
“I think we are improving. It’s not going to happen overnight, but I’m sure it will happen.
“We’ve got a talented squad. I think it’s just coming out of our shells and realising the potential we have. We’ve beaten great teams in the past, games we weren’t expected to win. I think it’s more of a consistency thing than a belief thing. We need to start building a winning culture. We’ve still got a young squad, and we’re still progressing. We’ve definitely got the squad to do it, and I’m sure we’ll see it.”