RICHARD Cockerill is in no rush to conclude the inquiry into the incident which left Edinburgh captain Magnus Bradbury with a head injury and led to his suspension. While conceding that the forward might be deemed innocent once all the details become known, the head coach would not rule out the possibility of stripping him of the captaincy, and insisted that he had “other things to do” than concern himself with a player who he sees as of less immediate importance than the team’s impending Challenge Cup trip to Moscow.
The best part of a fortnight has elapsed since the incident on a night out in the capital, and if Edinburgh had been keen to conclude an inquiry speedily they would surely have been able to do so now. But, having decreed that Bradbury should stay at home while recovering from the head knock, Cockerill appears to have decided that a slow process is the best way of demonstrating his displeasure at what he is inclined to see as a breach of trust, with the outcome likely to be announced next week.
“I’m disappointed,” the coach said yesterday, the first time anyone from Edinburgh had addressed the issue publicly. “Then you need to find out the facts behind what happened. It may be innocent and maybe it was an accident – or we might find out that it’s not. Until I find out all the facts I’ll reserved judgement. But I’m disappointed that a player would put himself in that position.
“It was a Saturday night, the players are adults and they choose what they do. That’s their own responsibility. I’m not going to set curfews or tell them what they can and can’t do – they know what’s acceptable. They have to manage themselves. It’s as simple as that.
“I don’t see any problem with anybody going out on a Saturday night and enjoying their social life. That’s just normal. Then clearly if they come into harm’s way they have a responsibility to their team. They’re professional sportsmen.
“I’ve spoken to the player. We need to find out what the details are. But I have got other things to do than chase around a 22-year-old lad that’s not got better things to do, which is coach a team and get them ready to play.
“The player’s not fit to play. Once I’m in control of all the facts, then myself and my bosses will speak to the player officially around what we see right to do with the situation.
“We’re off to Russia on Thursday, so it’s a short training week for us. I need to make sure that we’re ready to play rugby. At this moment Magnus isn’t available to play, so he’s down the pecking order of importance. Next week when I have a bit more time, we’ll make sure that all those processes are done correctly and I’ll have that discussion with the player.”
Bradbury has spoken to Cockerill at least once since the incident occurred, apologising for what happened. “He’s pretty contrite around the situation, because he’s let himself and his team down because he’s not fit to play,” the coach continued. “That’s just unfortunate for him, but young people sometimes make poor decisions. I’d rather players not be out in the middle of the night in positions where things happen, but I’m sure we’re all sensible enough to understand that we were all young once and we all go out and sometimes things happen. Now I need to find out exactly what that is and it may be completely innocent, it may not be. I just need to get to the crux of that. It’s very important that we get that process right and it’s important that we deal with it correctly.
“At this point he can do very little training-wise, so he’s spending time away from us and making sure he’s getting his physical state right. Then we’ll deal with the situation.
“Everybody is innocent until proven guilty. I just need to make sure we get the facts to make a proper decision about what is the right thing to do. I’m not a big fan of lynch mobs. I need to make a proper, informed decision about what to do. It certainly won’t be nothing.”
Lock forward Fraser McKenzie captained Edinburgh to their victory over London Irish last Saturday, and Cockerill will decide on the skipper for this weekend’s game against Krasny Yar once he has chosen his starting line-up. In the longer term, it is uncertain who will lead the team.
Asked if Bradbury would still be captain whatever the outcome of the inquiry, Cockerill continued: “I’ll have to decide that. Fraser McKenzie did it at the weekend and I will make sure that I pick whoever I think is the right captain for this weekend, it’s as simple as that.”
Another reason not to rush the inquiry is that Edinburgh are spoiled for choice in the back row, even allowing for the fact that Hamish Watson is also unavailable for the Moscow match, in his case because of a shoulder niggle. But, while willing to let Bradbury learn that he is far from indispensable, Cockerill also accepted that it was frustrating to be without one of his key men.
“It’s unhelpful, to say the least. I would like my players to be available to play. Regardless of what went on, there is some responsibility there for the player. We played on the Friday night and now my captain is unavailable because he was out late at night and something happened.
“I need to find out what happened. It’s all right getting animated, but I’ll do something about it when I know exactly what has gone on and I can make a proper informed decision.
“I’d like them all available so you can pick from a full complement. Vili Mata’s now back, so he’s training now and that’s helpful and I’d like everybody available because when players don’t play that puts the burden on someone else and somebody has to do all their playing and all their training reps and eventually that becomes a problem regarding autumn internationals, all those sorts of things. We’re going to start to lose players in the next few weeks and we would like everybody available, but that’s not life, is it?”