Cockerill shoots from the hip ahead of 1872 Cup showdown

Talk of a carve up between Edinburgh and Glasgow Warriors to secure two Scottish play-off places is nonsense

Richard Cockerill Edinburgh
Richard Cockerill wasn't in the mood for taking prisoners when he looked ahead to Edinburgh's 1872 cup clash against Glasgow Warriors this coming Saturday ***Image: ©Fotosport/David Gibson***

RICHARD COCKERILL was at his belligerent best yesterday [Tuesday] when he met the media to look ahead to this Saturday’s 1872 Cup clash against Glasgow Warriors. The pugnacious Edinburgh head coach took aim at various targets, including: social media pundits who have suggested the match will be a carve up between Scotland’s two professional sides to ensure that both teams make the play-offs; Glasgow Warriors for their ‘bordering on illegal’ tactics at the breakdown; and his Murrayfield paymasters for viewing Warriors as ‘favoured sons’.

There is a very good chance Edinburgh could already be qualified for the play-offs as the third ranked team in Conference B before they kick-off their final match of the regular season on Saturday night. If Ulster win but fail to pick up a bonus point away to Munter earlier in the day then the Northern Irishmen will draw equal with Cockerill’s team in terms of league points, but the Scots side will qualify on the basis that they have won more games over the course of the season.

However, if Ulster do pick up a bonus point win, then Edinburgh will need to secure at least a losing bonus point in their game. This has prompted some cynics to suggest that Warriors might chose to act in the best interests of the whole of Scottish rugby by not going full throttle in the match. Cockerill treated that suggestion with all the scorn it deserves.

‘I don’t want to rely on anybody doing us a favour’

“Me and Dave [Rennie – Warriors head coach] haven’t got a gentleman’s agreement at this point. I’m not sure we’ll have one by the time we kick off. Maybe the Irish should have a look at Ulster and Munster if that’s the case. Glasgow won’t want to lose and I’m sure Munster won’t at home either.

“Glasgow can come and chuck the ball about because they’re qualified – they didn’t have to win last week, and they don’t have to win this week – but I’m sure Dave will want to bring his team into form before the semis. Their form has probably not been as strong as they’d like it to be.

“I don’t think we’re that friendly with Glasgow to start making arrangements. I don’t want to rely on anybody doing us a favour – we need to go out and play well and get the points we need. First and foremost, because we want to qualify for the play-offs and Europe, and secondly because there is that rivalry.

Cockerill clarified that the suggestion that Munster might do Ulster a favour by rolling over this weekend is equally preposterous.

“Purely from an Edinburgh point of view, I was quite pleased that Munster lost [their European Champions Cup semi-final last weekend] because it means they will be hurting. Also, if they get the result [this weekend] then we go there the week after. Do they want to entertain Ulster back-to-back or do they want to bring Edinburgh to Thomond for the quarter-final? Logically speaking, they get it right then they entertain Edinburgh, which should be a rite of passage to the semi-finals. We’ll see.”

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‘Bordering on illegal’

The 47-year-old went on to make some pointed observations on how the Warriors play the game, and particularly their approach to the tackle area.

“The breakdown is going to be a real fight. They are very good there but also get penalised a lot for tackle assists and taking bodies beyond the ball. Their tactics around the breakdown are bordering on the illegal most of the time. We’ll have an experienced referee [Nigel Owens]. It’s going to be a hell of a game. I want it to be a battle. That’s what it should be. Rivalry against your local teams and your derbies should be a tasty affair.”

“We have a different approach. We’re a bit more pragmatic, they are more free-flowing but make a huge amount of errors at the same time. We have to put them under pressure to make errors. You saw last week [against Ulster], they played themselves into a hole most of the time. They’ve got more X-factor than us, but our collective strength will be key for us.”

‘Favoured sons’

Cockerill then shed some light on his desire to knock the Warriors down a peg or two. He admitted that he had only recently discovered that the 1872 Cup as a competition is a post-modern invention – cooked up by the SRU’s marketing department 11 years ago – but argued convincingly that the rivalry will gain more credibility and ferocity now that there are two genuine forces in the Scottish pro game.

“The table doesn’t lie. They have been the form team of the competition so far, but we have proved that on our day we can compete with anybody, and that gap between Glasgow and Edinburgh is closing all the time.

“The days of them being so dominant, and getting all the best players, and being the favoured sons – those days are over. We’re catching them quickly and we want to get this rivalry as tight and as sharp as ever.

“When I came here it was about getting the best out of this group. Now that we slowly are, we’ve recruited well for next year and need to go again. I want Edinburgh to be a strong model so if there are players coming back to the country, young players coming through, project players arriving here, I want them to be wanting to choose Edinburgh over Glasgow.

“It’s the capital city. It’s a great place to live and we want to offer the best rugby team and the best environment to develop.

“Why should I not be bullish about that? If I’m not, then no-one else will be. That’s where we want to be. I’m not going to be shrinking violet. We want to be getting the best players, the best young Scottish players wanting to be here. Historically we haven’t attracted them, or we haven’t wanted them – which is not right. I’m here to drive Edinburgh forward and makes us as strong as possible.”

‘Six weeks – if it was horrific it would be a lot more than that’

Cockerill played a straight bat when asked about the six weeks suspension handed out to Pierre Schoeman yesterday. The South African prop who will join Edinburgh’s ranks from the Bulls next season was given the sanction for biting the belly of Melbourne Rebels back-rower Richard Hardwick, during on off-the-ball tussle during a Super rugby clash in Pretoria on Saturday.

“At least he’ll get some rest before he comes. I’ve not seen the incident, I’m aware that he’s been suspended for six weeks, but it’s nothing to do with us – he’s not our player yet.

“I haven’t seen it so it’s hard to judge. Yeah, you’d prefer him not to be suspended, but life goes on.

“I think we all make mistakes – we all make errors – and like I say, I haven’t seen the Schoeman incident, so I don’t know how bad it is. If it’s six weeks, then it’s six weeks. If it was horrific it would be a lot more than that.”

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About David Barnes 3989 Articles
David has worked as a freelance rugby journalist since 2004 covering every level of the game in Scotland for publications including The Herald/Sunday Herald, The Sunday Times, The Telegraph, The Scotsman/Scotland on Sunday/Evening News, The Daily Record, The Daily Mail/Mail on Sunday and The Sun.