1872 Cup: kick-off time unjust to Ulster, Cockerill says

Edinburgh will know what they must do by the time their evening game against Glasgow kicks off.

Richard Cockerill
Richard Cockerill. Image: ©INPHO/Craig Watson.

RICHARD Cockerill has accepted that the timing of Saturday’s PRO14 games has given Edinburgh an “unfair advantage”, and that if he had been in Ulster’s position he would complain vociferously about the issue.

With Ulster needing to win with a bonus point at Munster in the afternoon to stay in contention for the play-offs, Cockerill’s team will know by the time their evening game against Glasgow kicks off what they must do. Even if Ulster do take five points, a single point would still be enough for Edinburgh to progress to the quarter-finals of a competition which the head coach has again insisted they are not good enough to win.

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Cockerill has selected Bill Mata at No 8 in the only alteration from the starting line-up that beat Scarlets two weeks ago, dropping Cornell du Preez to the bench. Mark Bennett is also among the substitutes for the game against his former team, with Chris Dean and James Johnstone maintaining their partnership in midfield.

“Because of the bizarre set-up that we play last, it’s an unfair advantage in so many ways,” Cockerill said. “If it was the other way around I’d be complaining like fuck right now about how crap the tournament is.

“It’s a bit bizarre, and it may change, because if Ulster won’t get what they need we’re qualified. If Scarlets win but don’t get a bonus point, a bonus point would give us a home quarter-final. If we get a bonus. That might change our mindset.

“But at the moment we’re just concerned that we’ve got our destiny in our own hands. Let’s work on the assumption that Ulster will get what they need and we have to go and get whatever we need. I think that’s a good mindset for us.

“I’m not sure that Glasgow are a team that you go and defend and hope you don’t lose by more than seven. They’re a good side with a huge threat across the team. They’ve probably got, without doubt, more X Factor than us.

“They play differently to us. They play high risk for high reward, so they turn the ball over a lot. They are good enough players to make good decisions. We may play lower risk for lower reward, we will see.

“My only concern is to qualify. The 1872 Cup is what it is. I’m not fussed about that whatsoever. We have got to get out of that small-mindedness. We are here to qualify for Europe and be in the play-offs and that should be our mind set.”

Edinburgh’s Prognosis

Edinburgh could yet finish second in Conference B, which would give them a home quarter-final against the Cheetahs, but it is more probable that they will claim third place, and with it a tie at Munster. They will go into that match as heavy underdogs, and Cockerill is certainly not inclined to put any pressure on his squad by suggesting in public that they will have a fighting chance.

“We are not genuine contenders to win the title,” he continued. “To have that expectation you’re only going to lead yourself to a disappointing place. Qualifying for Europe will be important to us. If we’re good enough to get into the play-offs that will be a good experience for us.

“If we have to go to Thomond Park, we can go there with no expectation or fear around the result and we can go and see how we are in the pecking order. We’re not even in the top 20 teams in Europe, because we don’t play in the competition, so this part is learning for us. If we exceed that and get past the quarter-finals that would be . . . You would get very good odds on it, if you were allowed to bet.”

Edinburgh (v Glasgow Warriors at BT Murrayfield, Saturday 7.45pm): B Kinghorn; D Fife, J Johnstone, C Dean, D van der Merwe; J van der Walt, S Hidalgo-Clyne; J Lay, S McInally, S Berghan, B Toolis, G Gilchrist, M Bradbury, J Ritchie, W Mata. Substitutes: N Cochrane, A Dell, W Nel, L Carmichael, C du Preez, N Fowles, D Weir, M Bennett.

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About Stuart Bathgate 1414 Articles
Stuart has been the rugby correspondent for both The Scotsman and The Herald, and was also The Scotsman’s chief sports writer for 14 years from 2000.