RICHARD COCKERILL says the tackle by Scarlets second-row Josh Helps which caused serious facial injuries to Edinburgh utility-back George Taylor during Sunday night’s PRO14 clash was “as nasty as you’ll see” and “something that we need to get rid of in the game”.
Helps was red-carded in the 61st minute of the match and will now go through the PRO14’s disciplinary process, while Taylor faces a lengthy lay-off while he recuperates.
“He [Taylor] got a broken jaw, a broken cheekbone and a broken nose, so he’s having surgery as soon as possible, and we’re probably looking at between eight and 12 weeks back to play,” explained Cockerill.
“[It was a] pretty nasty one, to be honest,” he continued. “I know there was lots of comment at the time around there was no intent, etcetera, but if you lead with your head, which effectively is pretty much a flying head-butt, really, you’re going to cause damage.
“That’s Scarlets’ third red card for the same offence in three games. Look, the disciplinary process will take its course, but we’ve got a player with basically a broken face who won’t play now for at least two, potentially three, months.
“It’s a nasty tackle, and it’s as nasty as you’ll see, and it’s something that we need to get rid of in the game.”
Cockerill came through the school of hard knocks at Leicester as a player, and has a reputation as an old-style rugby coach in terms of the rough and tumble of the game, but he believes a line has to be drawn between being hard and being recklessly dangerous.
“There are accidents and there are mitigating circumstances, but, in this case, I just don’t understand what the player was trying to do, if I’m honest,” he said. “He’s come across, he’s high the whole time, so was our player, upright, and he’s just led with his head straight into someone’s face.
A red card for Josh Helps and Scarlets' task just got a lot more difficult! 🟥
The tackle was clearly high so there can't be too many complaints 😬
"Looking at that, there's only one option." 🗣 pic.twitter.com/yIe5M2xiIi
— Premier Sports 📺 (@PremierSportsTV) November 1, 2020
“He’s a young player, obviously, and players make errors, but it looked … what’s he trying to do? If it wasn’t intentional, what is he actually trying to do? Because I don’t know, and the ultimate fact is that you have a very nasty clash of heads – the top of his head into the cheekbone and eye-socket area of George Taylor, and it’s a serious injury.
“If you did that anywhere else but a sporting field, you’d be in serious trouble, wouldn’t you? I don’t want to see it in the game, I want to protect our players, and I think the game has a responsibility to punish appropriately. That process will take its course at some point.”
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Taylor is making good progress in his recovery, while Cockerill is unhappy about an apparent lack of contrition from Helps for his role in seriously hurting an opposition player.
“George is doing well,” said the coach. “I spoke to him yesterday – he’s recovering and starting to feel better. He was heavily concussed. Having had scans he knows the extent of the damage, so we move on and do everything we can to fix that.
“As far as I’m aware, there was no apology at the time or since. Even when the player was leaving the field, he was shaking his head as if to say that was the wrong decision.
“Like I say, the authorities will deal with it as they see fit and we’re waiting to see what that is.”
The incident and consequences of it for Edinburgh in terms of losing another player from their already threadbare squad inevitably took the shine off what was otherwise a good day for Cockerill and his team, in which they battled to their first win of the 2020-21 PRO14 season.
“It was a good win. It was a win that we could have had at Munster as well. We’d been playing reasonably well: we just hadn’t been finishing games off,” said Cockerill.
“The game could still have gone either way. The players worked very hard. There were still lots of guys missing. It will give us some confidence – always nice to win. To come in on a Wednesday morning for our first day of training and to review a game on the back of a win is great.
“Winning gives you confidence. Winning’s a habit, and we’re happy that we’ve broken the losing streak we were in, so we don’t have to talk about it anymore.”