MANY of us may have time on our hands at present, but Richard Cockerill seems to be busier than ever. No sooner had Edinburgh announced the signings of Nathan Chamberlain, Dan Gamble and Ben Muncaster earlier today (Friday) than the head coach revealed that a number of other young players are on the verge of joining, along with an experienced lock.
Some of the signings will be players already associated with Edinburgh through the SRU’s academy system, while others will come from Super6. The Ayrshire Bulls/Glasgow Warriors forward Marshall Sykes is still expected to head east, while the more experienced lock is also likely to be announced soon, second row being the one area of Cockerill’s squad still lacking sufficient depth.
“Sam Grahamslaw, the young loosehead, will take a professional contract,” the coach explained. “Rory Darge and Connor Boyle will be first-year professionals as well. They’ve been training with us for the past year and had a big impact with the [Scotland Under-]20s.”
Grahamslaw and Boyle, a back-row forward, were both members of the Watsonians Super6 squad this season, while Darge, also a flanker, played for the Southern Knights. Having taken some criticism for signing South African schoolboy Jordan Venter rather than a young Scots centre, Cockerill was keen to stress that, in addition to those three, several more Scottish-qualified players were on his radar.
“Marshall Sykes is one, he continued. “Jamie Hodgson has been with us as well. Charlie Jupp as well, who has been in the Edinburgh academy. There’s a few we’ve been looking at and we’re very keen that if the right people are there to try and develop and we like the look of them, we’ll bring them in and develop them.
“The Super6 to this point has done a really good job in less than ideal circumstances. It had a really positive start, there’s some good things happening there and something that as a union and a country we can build on and make it better and better.”
Hodgson has been on a Watsonians/Edinburgh partnership, while his fellow-lock Jupp has been playing for Heriot’s. Those two and Sykes could all come into contention for places in Cockerill’s matchday squads next season, but the coach knows he also needs a more seasoned campaigner in the position. Stan South, Sam Thomson and Murray Douglas have all come and gone this season after arriving on short-term deals, and back-up is required given the likely absence on international duty of Grant Gilchrist and Ben Toolis and the probability, according to Cockerill, that Callum Hunter-Hill‘s loan to Saracens will shortly become a permanent move.
“There’s one more experienced lock who will come in that’s Scottish,” the coach continued. “It’s not right at this point to announce it, but we’ve signed someone who is Scottish and a good player and he’ll do a good job for us. With the guys we’ve got, notwithstanding, we send two second rows to the national team, Lewis Carmichael is coming through and finding his form after long-term injury. We’re solid in that department and all our locks are Scottish. It bodes well. Scotland have a lot of strength in depth in that position.”
While continuing apace with preparations for next season, Cockerill remains hopeful that this season will be concluded on the pitch. With his Edinburgh side top of PRO14 Conference B, he unsurprisingly disagrees with Warriors coach Dave Rennie‘s suggestion that awarding the title to unbeaten Conference A leaders Leinster would be fair.
“That’s his personal view. As you can imagine, it’s not one that I agree with. Leinster are a great side, they’ve had a fantastic season to this point, but the beauty of sport is that on any given day good things happen – that’s the romantic side of sport. There is no reason why an Edinburgh can’t beat them, or an Ulster or a Munster or a Glasgow. I have no doubt that on any given day, any of those sides are capable of eating each other.
“PRO14 want to do everything they can to get this season concluded, and they are working as hard as they can to do that. We’re all waiting to see what we can do to get back to training, but we’re in that holding pattern, aren’t we? We’re all waiting to see what the government’s next move might look like.
“So, for me, if we can get any resolution to the season – whatever that looks like – I would love that to happen. Some way shape or form around the play-offs, to give all those six teams who are in the play-off places a chance to potentially go head to head and get a champion.
“PRO14 want to do everything they can to get this season concluded, and they’re working as hard as they can to do that. We’re all waiting to see what we can do to get back to training, but we’re in that holding pattern, aren’t we? We’re all waiting to see what the government’s next move might look like.”