Richard Cockerill seeking quick fix for Edinburgh at Ulster

Edinburgh head coach Richard Cockerill at training. Picture: Kenny Smith/SNS/SRU
Edinburgh head coach Richard Cockerill at training. Picture: Kenny Smith/SNS/SRU
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Edinburgh coach Richard Cockerill is expecting a swift improvement from his team as they look to bounce back from their opening night 17-13 loss at Ospreys in another testing away trip to face Ulster in Belfast on Friday.

The coach was still frustrated yesterday with his side’s inability to keep hold of possession in Swansea in a disjointed game which, with more accuracy, the visitors could well have won.

“A lot of these things we can mend immediately,” said Cockerill yesterday after a frank debrief and training session at BT Murrayfield. “We have gone from the [first pre-season] Bath game and turning the ball over 21 times to less than ten against Newcastle to then doing it 21 times again against Ospreys.

“Some of those are easily fixed and we have to fix them and do it. It is frustrating really because we know we can play better than that. It was a pretty poor game full stop from both teams. If we were 10 per cent better we could have won the game. We played so poorly in some parts but still had a chance at the death to win the game.

“We would have had the points but we still would have had the same issues to deal with. You are always concerned as a coach when you don’t perform as well as you like and when you don’t win.

“That is where this team is at. We have some new players and have to make sure these things gel. I don’t think Friday was about bad combinations. It was about bad decision-making at times and poor skills. You can’t get stripped of the ball, or held up, or drop it or make poor decisions. You are not going to win games if you do that, especially away from home.”

After the cross-conference opener in Wales, Edinburgh now travel to face a side with whom they are likely to be vying for a play-off spot, which adds greater edge to their desire not to start with two losses out of two, in contrast to the couple of victories they opened up with last term.

Ulster opened with a good, close win over Scarlets and get another home game as the Scots are forced on the road again. “I watched [Ulster] at the weekend and it was very physical,” said Cockerill. “It wasn’t a great spectacle but they will be well motivated playing at home for the second week on the trot. I am never quite sure how we keep playing away at this part of the season but such is life!”

Ulster are now under the leadership of former Scotland forwards coach Dan McFarland, who will be well acquainted with the bulk of the Edinburgh pack. “He knows our lads probably more than I know his lads but we will do our homework,” said Cockerill. “It is a game of rugby and that intellect makes no difference whatsoever.”

Asked if two weeks was too short a period for McFarland to make much of an impact Cockerill quipped: “I have been here 14 months and I haven’t made a difference!

“No, look, Dan is a good coach and he is going to take time to bed in. To a larger degree there is pressure on them as the home team to perform and win and we want to put pressure on ourselves to make sure we go and play as well as we can. You have to beat the teams around you. They are all important games but Ulster away is not a gimme is it, so we will go and try to get as many points out of the game so there is a long way to go.

“It would be nice to get as many points and deny sides around us. If you look at the top four in our Conference [B], Treviso have had a good start as well so it would be helpful to take as many points as possible off Ulster.”

Cockerill revealed that back-rower Magnus Bradbury, who has been battling a calf strain, will play club rugby this weekend. He is drafted to Melrose. Tighthead prop WP Nel, who wasn’t involved last Friday, is available for selection.