Newcastle v Edinburgh: ‘I’m going nowhere until 2021,’ insists Cockerill

John Hardie set to face old club after being drafted into Newcastle Falcons' European squad ahead of Sunday's crucial Champions Cup clash

Richard Cockerill
Richard Cockerill says he is fully focussed on finishing the job he has started at Edinburgh and has no plans to leave before his contract runs out in 2021. Image: Fotosport/David Gibson

RICHARD COCKERILL says he has absolutely no intention of leaving Edinburgh before his contract runs out in the summer of 2021, although he would jump at the opportunity to coach international rugby at some point in the future.

The former hooker has been linked with the England job after comments made by Nigel Melville were published over the weekend in which the RFU’s Director of Professional Rugby and interim Chief Executive revealed that Cockerill is on a short-list of names he has in mind to succeed Eddie Jones.

However, Jones is also under contract until 2021, and unless England have a disastrous World Cup it is hard to imagine the Australian being paid off before that deal runs its course.

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“It is a surprise to me,” said Cockerill when asked about being linked to the job. “Eddie is contracted to 2021, as I am here. I am happy to be doing what I am doing here.

“I would like to get involved in international rugby, but it certainly won’t be until my time here is up.

“It is always nice to be mentioned in those circles, but I have been mentioned before and I am still here. There is no job to be taken. I am not sure the RFU would want me to do it anyway,” added the 47-year-old, who has had a tempestuous relationship with the governing body in the past, with a chuckle. “I have been banned enough by the rugby union. I am one of lots [of names being linked to the job]. My sole attention is on what I am doing at Edinburgh,” he added.

“I am contracted at Edinburgh until 2021, it is as simple as that. I am not sure any coach and want to be mentored for two years by Eddie. It is not how it works.”

One of many potential candidates

Current Wales coach Warren Gatland and former England coach Stuart Lancaster (who has resurrected his career with Leinster after leaving the Twickenham payroll in the aftermath a disastrous 2015 World Cup campaign) have also been linked to the job.

Lancaster’s contract runs out at the end of this season but he has already opened discussions with the IRFU about extending his stay in Dublin, and a link-up with Andy Farrell in the Ireland set-up has been mooted.

“I think they suggested every coach in world rugby is of interest. I don’t think it’s narrowed down to me,” Lancaster told the Irish Independent on Monday. “I think that was the way it was described but I think Nigel Melville said they’d be happy to talk to any coach and I’d fall into that category. It’s a hypothetical situation because it’s never been suggested. I’ve never spoken to Nigel Melville or the RFU, so I don’t even exercise my mind thinking about it.”

Rob Baxter of Exeter Chiefs and Mark McColl of Saracens – the two most successful English club sides in recent years – have already ruled themselves out of taking over the job in 2019, although a lot could change by 2021.

Meanwhile, Melville also name-checked former England back-row Joe Worsley, who is a defence coach at Bordeaux-Begles in France, as well as current England forwards coach Steve Borthwick, during last week’s press briefing.

“We are English coaches who are coaching at a good leveI,” added Cockerill. “I have experience in three competitions in Europe, so I have experience … but, no, it is not something that would interest me at this point.

“I have a contract here which I have every intention of honouring.”

All eyes on Newcastle

Rather than worrying about what might happen in three years’ time, Cockerill says his focus is fully on the next major challenge facing Edinburgh, which is backing up last Friday night’s Champions Cup bonus point victory over Newcastle Falcons at Murrayfield, with another positive showing in the return leg at Kingston Park on Sunday.

“My relationship isn’t with England, France or Scotland, it is with a group of players that I am coaching and the environment we are working in,” he said. “The nationality part is irrelevant to me whether that makes sense or not.

“My job is that of a pro coach and I will do whatever is best for Edinburgh who I coach at this point. I have an emotional attachment to this club because we have put a lot of effort and time to try and get it as good as it can be.

“My job is to coach these players to be as good as they can be. Part of it is obviously to pay his bills but the real driver for me is to do a really good job because I want to be a good pro and be treated with respect as a coach.

Edinburgh are currently three points ahead of Falcons at the top of pool five but there is still a lot of rugby to be played before the make up of the quarter-final draw is confirmed, and Cockerill knows his team will face a far sterner test of their European credentials this coming weekend than they did last time out against a Falcons side who will at least have a recognised tight-head prop at the disposal – and therefore a functioning scrum – now that Jack Payne was added to their European squad.

A spate of injuries after the registration deadline last week meant that the Falcons went in to Friday’s game with two loose-heads covering the tight side of the front-row.

Hard Horse gets his chance

Falcons have also added former Edinburgh flanker John Hardie – who left the club last summer after serving a three-month suspension for alleged cocaine use – to their European squad for Sunday’s game.

“We’ve got a great opportunity to go and win at the weekend and put ourselves right in the box-seat to qualify,” said Cockerill. “That’s what we’ll try and do, but even if we don’t win we still have another two opportunities to get out of this group.

“That’s the thing about the pool stage and actually understanding how that works. Even at the weekend when we got the fourth try it was about not givin them any extra [losing bonus] points which could give them a fillip.

“When we go to Newcastle, even if we don’t manage to win but get a point out of that game then it’s another point closer to qualifying. We go to Toulon, we have Montpellier to come, but we’d really like to create games for us that are big games that we have to win.

“Newcastle we’d really like to [win], it’s not a must-win as there will be other opportunities. We’d really like get to Montpellier and it’s a game to qualify or a game to finish top. We need to play in those sorts of games, [because] this is a learning curve for us. If that comes quicker then I’ll take it. We’ve put ourselves in a position where we have as good an opportunity as anyone to qualify from this group.”

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About David Barnes 4004 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.