Edinburgh squad down to bare bones but Cockerill looks to longer-term benefits

Bradbury and Crosbie head long list of injuries that coach has to deal with

Magnus Bradbury may need surgery after injuring a shoulder against Toulon. Image: © Craig Watson. www.craigwatson.co.uk

RICHARD Cockerill may have a reputation for being quick-tempered, but he is just as capable of being calm and contemplative.  No matter how much he was annoyed by Edinburgh’s second-half capitulation against Zebre on Friday night, for example, the head coach was still able to see the bigger picture – that, while victory would of course have been far preferable to the 34-16 defeat, the experience some of the team’s youngest players gained from that PRO14 match could be invaluable in the years to come.

The same attitude will obtain again on Friday night, when the Edinburgh squad to play Scarlets at home will again be down to its bare bones. Cockerill was due to learn last night which of his Scotland-squad members would be released to play in the Murrayfield match, but between international duties and injuries he expects to have about 20 absentees.

One player he had already known would be out is Magnus Bradbury, who withdrew from the Scotland squad last week with a shoulder injury. “We’re just deciding whether Magnus needs surgery, which is probably the case,” the coach said. “If he has surgery that will be, I would say, 16 weeks.”

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Luke Crosbie, meanwhile, has a broken jaw and will be out for around six weeks. Jaco van der Walt, who was ruled out of the Zebre match with a pulled hamstring, will not play on Friday but could be back by the end of next month. And Matt Scott, out of Scotland contention with concussion, will go through the customary protocols.

Cockerill has brought in Ally Miller from the Sevens squad and Lewis Wynne from London Scottish, while Melrose’s Rory Darge will train with the squad and could play at the weekend.

“We’ve got a very difficult period coming up,” Cockerill acknowledged. “It is what it is. We’ve got to work hard with the players we’ve got. We’ll beg, borrow and do whatever we can to get a team out.

“It will be a challenge, won’t it? But the only way for young players to get blooded and learn is you have to take a bit of pain on the way. We’ll just see how much pain on Friday.  We turn up and win, I think we should all go on the piss.”

The coach may well have felt like turning to drink after seeing his team lose to Zebre, but, while accepting that individual errors had contributed to the defeat, he was adamant that there was no point in getting carried away by rage.

“It was a difficult game to review – we played reasonably well for most of the game. First half we controlled the game very well, but if you make simple errors . . . .  There were three really cheap tries for nothing and the game was away from us.

“We gave them cheap points. We’ve got some young guys in there that were playing for the first time and they slowly started to run out of energy. You have to learn the lessons of that.

“I expected us to stay in the fight a little bit more, and I expected a bit more from some of our senior players at times. They had all their internationals back in the squad, which was pretty unhelpful to us. But that’s what you get if you’re inaccurate and you miss vital parts of the game when it’s a really tight fixture anyway.

“I’m just disappointed, because we’re better than that. I don’t feel let down, because the players worked hard. We had the majority of our team away until Wednesday, Parma is the hardest place in the world to get to – that’s not an excuse, but it’s not a perfect week. However, with the start that we had and the tactics we had . . .  But you can’t give cheap tries away.

“I’m pretty cheesed off that we didn’t get anything from the game. But in the context of where we’re at, we’re playing very deep into our squad, and sometimes there’s a bit of pain that comes with that.”

It remains to be seen how badly affected Scarlets are by Wales call-ups, but Cockerill still expects them to have greater numbers and experience from which to select. “I think they’ve got a deeper squad and they’re a more experienced squad – that’s what money buys. It’s ironic that Blade Thomson is going to be playing against us.

“Given we’ve got probably 20-plus players missing from our squad of 45, it doesn’t take much to get down to the bare bones, does it? So we’ll see. Who knows? The season’s not over – it’s two games. At the moment things are conspiring against us a little bit.”

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About Stuart Bathgate 1427 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.