Richard Cockerill planning ‘baby steps’ for Edinburgh’s return to rugby

Coach admits closed-doors games would not be ideal but says they might be the best option
Richard Cockerill is planning for a return to competitive rugby, whenever that may be. Picture: Ross Parker/SNSRichard Cockerill is planning for a return to competitive rugby, whenever that may be. Picture: Ross Parker/SNS
Richard Cockerill is planning for a return to competitive rugby, whenever that may be. Picture: Ross Parker/SNS

Edinburgh coach Richard Cockerill accepts the seriousness of the current situation and knows rugby restart is a time away but is ensuring that everything is in place for when that green light is finally given.

Frustratingly, the season was suspended just as the capital pro team seemed on the cusp of their best season in a decade, top of Guinness Pro14 Conference B, heading for the play-offs and in the quarter-finals of the European Challenge Cup.

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“We’re still stuck in a holding pattern, aren’t we, because we just don’t know when this is likely to ease,” said the coach. “There may be a chance that the season may not start again. But everybody is looking at every which way to try and – if we can, safely – make this happen.

“It’s baby steps moving forward. Whether that’s training in small groups and then training as a team and then potentially playing behind closed doors – whatever that looks like.”

Cockerill is a rugby purist who earned his spurs in the Leicester Tigers bearpit that is Welford Road and pushed on into the international game as England hooker in the late 1990s. He savours the atmosphere a crowd brings to sport but knows any new start for rugby may have to be behind closed doors in the face of the current Covid-19 emergency.

“It’s not perfect. All of us want to get back to normal as quickly as possible and have people coming to watch. But if we can get games playing and we can prove that it’s safe to do that, we can get the games on television and fans get to watch their teams,” he said.

“I agree – we’d all like to go straight back in and have our fans in. We’re building a new stadium [on the back pitches of BT Murrayfield], we want to get that open, we want to get that sold out, we want to move forward – but it’s not going to happen overnight, is it?”

Cockerill signed up three promising age-grade players in the form of stand-off Nathan Chamberlain, pictured inset, back-row Ben Muncaster and tighthead Dan Gamble last week. He hinted more youngsters may be secured soon as Edinburgh reconfigures in the current climate, with the likes of experienced Scotland centre Matt Scott departing as his contract ends next month to Cockerill’s former club Leicester.

“We have a budget to stick to. Matt wanted to stay and I wanted him to stay. But, with all the other signings and all the other bits and pieces in terms of the balance of the squad, it just wasn’t possible,” said the coach.

“Matt’s a very good player. He was unlucky not to play for Scotland this year [in the Six Nations] because he was on good form. Tough decisions had to be made. But Matt’s a good player and a good man. I’m disappointed that he’s leaving, but I’m pleased he’s going to a good club.”

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