Richard Cockerill leaves Edinburgh by mutual consent

The club’s initial pre-season preparations will be led by assistant/defence coach Calum MacRae and Head of Strength and Conditioning Nick Lumley

Richard Cockerill has left Edinburgh by mutual consent. Image: © Craig Watson - www.craigwatson.co.uk
Richard Cockerill has left Edinburgh by mutual consent. Image: © Craig Watson - www.craigwatson.co.uk

RICHARD COCKERILL has parted company with Edinburgh with immediate effect by mutual consent in order to allow the coach to “pursue other opportunities”, just 11 months after signing a two-year contract extension at the club which was supposed to run until the summer of 2023.

The club’s initial pre-season preparations will be led by assistant/defence coach Calum MacRae and Head of Strength and Conditioning Nick Lumley. Former Edinburgh scrum-half Mike Blair, who is currently a member of the Scotland management team and was supposed to pick up some experience as head coach with the national side before Covid ruined this summer’s schedule, would be an obvious candidate to take the Edinburgh job on a permanent basis.

Cockerill, who previously had periods coaching Leicester Tigers and Toulon, joined Edinburgh in the summer of 2017, and initially had a big impact in re-energising the underperforming club.


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The former England hooker led the side to their first ever PRO14 play-offs appearance in 2018, and they won their PRo14 conference in 2020 before losing to Ulster in the play-off semi-final. They also reached the quarter-finals of the European Champions Cup in 2019, but endured a frustrating, Covid-ravaged 2020-21 season in which they finished they finished fifth in Conference B of the PRO14 and managed just seven wins and one draw from 24 matches in all competitions.

“Having had constructive conversations with Jim Mallinder and Mark Dodson post season it was agreed that we would come to an agreement where I would leave the club by mutual consent to pursue other opportunities,” said Cockerill.

“I would like to thank everyone at Edinburgh Rugby for the hard work they have put in. It has been a rewarding four seasons for the club.

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“I would also like to thank all the supporters for everything they have done for me and the team you have been amazing.

“I wish the staff and players all the best for the future and look forward to watching you in your new stadium.”

Edinburgh Rugby Managing Director, Douglas Struth, said: “I would like to thank Richard for all his hard work and commitment to the club throughout his time at Edinburgh Rugby.

“We wish him all the very best in his next challenge.”


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About David Barnes 2476 Articles
David has worked as a freelance rugby journalist since 2004 covering every level of the game in Scotland for publications including he 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.

39 Comments

  1. Intersting that everyone talks about Edinburgh up front and ignores the Elephant in the room – the dire state of the backs!

  2. Interesting to compare Edinburgh with Harlequins last season. The first half not much difference both dull, boring and limited with players looking really unhappy playing under a coach who wouldn’t allow any free spirit.

    Second half of the season chalk and cheese. Edinburgh continued as before whilst Quins sacked their Head Coach and didn’t even bother to replace him instead giving the running of the team to a group of assistant coaches who told the players to go out and express themselves, play what is in front of you and have fun – and crucially we will back you.

    The result? Quins came from nowhere playing some of the most entertaining rugby seen in the Premiership which they won. Of course it helps if you have players like Marcus Smith but how do you get players like this if you stifle any flair they have from the start?

  3. It’s a good thing for Edinburgh. Did a great job making them respectable again but for the last 2 years they’ve hit a ceiling. Players’ rugby maturity was stunted by his autocratic style, plus they have been murder to watch, Ive seen school teams with better attacking patterns. His old school methods can only take a team so far. I think he’s run his shelf life… For Edinburgh to progress they need a coach who allows the players to contribute and thrive. Developing leaders, nouse, and attacking play is a priority

  4. Excellent range of comments topped off by reading John Barclays piece in The Times.

    It seems everybody knew about Cockerills behaviours. But those professionals at Murrayfield deemed him worthy of a contract extension.

    And now we have Wellbeing as a strategic objective. Not before time it would seem though I would have thought the various players who openly talked about issues, some of whom left the sport should have been heeded sooner.

    The quote from Maya Angelou seems most apt “ When someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time.”

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  5. The Cockerill news is a disgrace and disaster. However, Dodson must get his undeserved and extortionate bonus at all costs. Cockerill had his legs tied together and one arm behind his back for the last year +. It is not his fault that the team couldn’t cope without all the absentees. He even extended his contract not all that long ago to show his commitment.

    The hype to promote the sale of season tickets, when the Cockerill situation must have been known by Dodson & Co, borders on fraudulence. Cockers was someone who could attract decent signings but they too must feel they have been deceived and morale in the squad must be at rock bottom, not helped by the departure of mercenaries VDM, Sutherland and others.

    My best friend was a fellow Edinburgh fanatic and fought a long fight against cancer. He was ever cheerful but the prospect of a further operation was getting him down. I wrote to Cockers out of the blue explaining the situation and asking if he would consider visiting my friend at home for lunch. A quick reply resulted in a surprise guest for lunch and we spent a happy two hours talking rugby. My friend was buoyed by the visit and talked about it for weeks. I thanked Cockers profusely and he replied – “There’s more important things in life than rugby”

    He was a great coach, a true gentleman and it was a pleasure to make his acquaintance. I fear it will take Edinburgh a long time to recover from this.

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    • I’ve also met him, not in such harrowing circumstances. One to one in the right setting I would agree he is a nice guy, makes time for people. But that does not make him a good coach; his style is from the past, as is his gameplan.
      Edinburgh needed a disciplinarian, but humiliating players in front of the rest every session is not a sustainable approach. Its bullying.
      He may well be upset at losing Bergan, Sutherland – but he is a major part of the reason they left. Some kids quit altogether.

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  6. John Barclay’s article in The Times today elaborates on all the whispers you heard about Cockerill’s style – total authority, disciplinarian, not trusting players with anything.

    There’s no doubt Edinburgh needed that kind of interruption to their previous culture, and it had a very positive short-term impact. Doesn’t seem in the least bit sustainable though, and if players absolutely hate the environment and don’t feel trusted then it surely can’t ever end well.

    Hopefully the team can retain something of the hard edge he instilled but add some attacking nous to the gameplan.

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  7. Really hope it’s Mike Blair vex I reckon that way he’s being groomed for the Scotland job after the next world cup if Gregor resigns or gets sacked (hopefully not though as that means we had a successful world cup).

    As for Cockers, I reckon he’ll next manage a club in the Gallagher Premiership, not sure what team though.

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  8. So what is the reasoning behind this then?
    “Having had constructive conversations with Jim Mallinder and Mark Dodson post season it was agreed that we would come to an agreement where I would leave the club by mutual consent to pursue other opportunities,” said Cockerill.
    I guess Cockers was not happy at the loss of players and that Dodson wasn’t happy because Cockers complained? Dodson is known to expel anyone with who he doesn’t agree with.
    Cockers made a big difference to the Edinburgh Team. Recent results were bad but when all your Scotland players are missing for various internationals what can we expect from the team? In the past season, Edinburgh lost another 2 SA players who became eligible for Scotland. That left very few experienced players to cover.
    If I was in Cocker’s position I would have left the club too because of the reasons given above. Plus your boss is not really your boss.
    Douglas Struth is named as Managing Director of Edinburgh but he appears to have had no say in the matter? Not that this surprises me! I have been a season ticket holder for a long time but he is not interested in me or many others. He just listens to the woman who runs the Fans Facebook group. However, he needs to realise that there are other supporter groups and individuals who are just as interested in the club but just happen not to agree with her on every point. If you disagree you are out of the group as many of us have found in the past. I suggest they appoint her as coach and Managing Director as she is always right on everything?? At least she ts she is!

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  9. A real shame, he made a huge difference. But with Rory Sutherland, Duhan etc leaving and not for rock star clubs clearly something was wrong.
    I think we owe him a vote of thanks and wish him well. I hope he has landed a great job -probably in France.
    Scottish Rugby can’t afford a rock star so lets give Blair a chance – he’s a real rugby thinker, here’s his chance to prove he is a man manager?

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    • Why Blair, Kenny Murray has been an assistant at Warriors since 2013 and success. Develop and promote from within. Far to many coronations in SRU.

      • The fact Murray has been involved at Glasgow for all those years and never went any further when Dalziel, a similarly qualified club coach has quickly worked his way up the ladder may be telling on that front. Has Murray become too comfortable as part of the furniture at Scotstoun, or is he “just” suited to be an assistant coach? I say “just” because there is nothing wrong with that.

        A concern with Murray would be he seems to have no real speciality as a coach. Glasgow have brough in Dalziel as a forwards coach (and he left) and now Glasgow have brought in an attack coach. I believe Murray now looks after the defence but McCrae is a good defence coach and is he any more qualified than Dalziel or McCrae? Blair may be lesser qualified but he has plenty of experience in pro rugby too.

  10. There is most definitely more to this than is being written.

    Cockerill, whilst not the most inventive of coaches, and to be honest quite one dimensional, had given Edinburgh some much-needed stability.

    But Whatever the reason he is now gone and Edinburgh need someone in pretty quick to get a handle on pre-season and what they have to work with…I think Edinburgh fans are in for another season of disappointment.

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  11. I think he did the first part of the job at edinburgh well – provided a bit of buoyancy to a sinking ship and effected a much needed culture change. However, I’m not sure he would be the man to drive them on to new heights.

    They collapsed in the semi final v Ulster and seem to have gone downhill since, not just in performance and results, but also in apparent motivation. The youngsters seemed to be playing in a straitjacket and a couple of big names have taken the opportunity to leave when they could.

    I think that for whatever reason, it’s probably time to part relatively amicably and see what someone else can do.

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    • I don’t think it would have made much difference to those figures. They’re hardly stellar and I don’t think the people who bought them would really care too much. Suspect they’d have gone anyway.

      Just an opinion.

    • Unfortunately, he just resigned with the crusaders. Mike Blair is what I’m hearing as with it being short notice I’m not sure who else is available.

    • Was he not in line for the All Blacks job recently? Think he might have loftier ambitions than Edinburgh.
      Mike Blair would be the cheaper option – already an SRI employee. Pity he never got his chance to shine on the Scotland summer tour

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  12. Whilst a likeable guy in some ways he never brought much flair to the game. Anyone who can develop a faster pick and go routine would be welcome. On my visits to Edinburgh I always found I could nip to the toilet when Edinburgh got to the first pick and go in the 5m zone and that they would maybe be on attempt 3 or 4 when I got back. Suspect he has not been pleased by some of the departures with Sutherland the latest and assume he would have liked some big names coming the other way although on paper we still have a pretty strong set of forwards if we can get the best out of them. Need some class at stand off.

  13. Mutual consent? Who’s after him.5 wins in the league last year was a poor return but there’s bound to be a story here. We’ve now lost a few heavy hitters and the coach, not sue that’s the best business approach to drive season ticket sales.

  14. I don’t really know whether Blair would be a good replacement or not. I’d like to think though that Mallinder had his own connections and could bring in a decent outside coach. Difficult time to be looking but the SRU need to be ambitious about their coach appointments. Of course if Blair is ready to step up then happy days.

  15. A delicious little inside story to this….

    Anyone who didn’t see it coming was asleep at the keyboard.

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    • is your story the same or similar to Barclay’s?

      Anyway, I disagree with most of your posts, but not this one

      • Well DMcG, if that comment reflects the extent of your intellectual capacity, then so be it!

        Others considering this matter may recognise that while the chubby Mancunian CEO is simply an uneducated uncontrolled blustering snake-oil selling barrow-boy, the real nub of the issue here, and the flimsy disguise of the truth behind it, lies deep within the behavioural / management culture of the organisation (in itself a complex and rewarding field of academic study).

        Go figure!

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  16. He’s been good for Edinburgh and is a decent bloke, best wishes to him in the future. Probably right move for both Edinburgh and Richard.

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  17. Don’t know how to feel about this. Edinburgh traditionally have supplied the forwards and Glasgow the backs to Scotland’s core, reflecting a very different ethos and playing style. To Cockers credit he has produced teams that are solid and competitive, but rarely sparkle. His successor will be an interesting clue as to direction of travel.

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