CHRIS DEAN will have surgery on a torn pectoral muscle on Thursday and could be out of action until the end of January, Edinburgh coach Richard Cockerill revealed today. The centre picked up the injury in the friendly against Ospreys two weeks ago. “Chris Dean’s going to have surgery on a pec injury, so he’s going to miss three or four months,” Cockerill said at a Murrayfield press conference.
Edinburgh are still waiting to learn how long Hamish Watson will be out after a knee injury against Ireland ended the Scotland openside’s World Cup after just one game. The capital club have also just lost Henry Pyrgos for the next few weeks after the scrum-half was called up by national coach Gregor Townsend to replace Scotland’s other casualty from that opening Pool A match, Glasgow Warriors’ Ali Price.
Given the number of players who were already away on World Cup duty, mainly in the pack, Cockerill could do without further depletion to his squad, but at least the vast majority of those who remain at home are fit and in consideration for Saturday’s first PRO14 game of the season at home to Ospreys. The one notable exception besides Dean is Ruan Steenkamp, brought in over summer as cover for Watson. The South African is still suffering the effects of the concussion he sustained against the Welsh side, but is “doing well” according to his coach and should be available again soon.
Looking back briefly on last season yesterday before turning his mind to this campaign, Cockerill accepted his team had suffered from inconsistency, but insisted that call-ups had taken their toll. While he will expect improvement this season and sees contention for a play-off place as the minimum goal, he repeated his belief that a bigger squad – and a bigger budget to enable him to build that squad – will be needed if Edinburgh are to become more consistent.
“We’re going to have to invest more in our squad, because if we have 12 guys away on Test duty and stipulations on resting guys, and the summer tours are later, we’re going to need a bigger squad,” he said. “I’ve been talking about deeper squads since I arrived. I don’t think [SRU chief executive] Mark Dodson expects an easy conversation. But that’s part of working together with the union.
“Last year we were taking players on loan from the Championship to make our squad up. With respect to everybody, the Leinsters and the Munsters, who are trying to win the league, aren’t doing that. Glasgow, who are trying to win the league, aren’t doing that. With the budgets we have, that’s where we’re at.
“I think last year we went into every game to win it and I still think that was the right thing to do. We had a good run in Europe and were unlucky with injuries – and because we were doing well, we had more international call-ups. With injuries and those international call-ups, we were very short of players at vital periods. And we weren’t good enough.
“So our consistency was a lot bit lacking. Work in progress is probably the best phrase.
“I think we’ll be better again this year. We’re starting to contribute a huge amount of players to Scotland, so that’s a pleasing thing, but we’ve become the victims of our own success to a point.
“I expect us as a bare minimum to be competing for play-offs in the PRO14. We’re not in the big European competition, but we’ll look to rotate and develop parts of our squad. But guys have got to earn that. If they haven’t worked hard enough to get on the field, they won’t get on the field.”
The need for consistency
Competing to get into the play-offs is one thing, but actually getting there is another. Then, once you are actually in the play-offs, there is doing something apart from merely making up the numbers. Cockerill knows that his team have rivals who regularly expect to win trophies – rivals who, for the time being at least, are more consistent than his own side.
“If we can get to a play-off, we’ve proved we can beat the Montpelliers and Toulons, Glasgow,” he added. “We’ve been toe to toe with Munster in quarter-finals in two occasions and just fallen short.
“So we know in a one-off game we’ve been good enough to beat teams. Can we do that three games on the trot? That’s still be proved. It’s the Holy Grail for any team, really.
“I’m not going to put on a label saying we’re good enough to win the league, or we’re going to win the league, because I’m not sure that’s realistic yet. It may be a difficult year with the World Cup – guys will come back and need rest, then there’s the Six Nations, then there is a tour where they go to South Africa twice then New Zealand.”