Cockerill looks to Fife for Edinburgh long-term plan

Richard Cockerill expressed satisfaction with a winning start to the Guinness Pro14 season, but the Edinburgh coach is under no illusions that the fragility which has dogged the team for years will take time to eradicate.
Outside centre Robbie Fruean is in contention to make his Edinburgh debut against DragonsOutside centre Robbie Fruean is in contention to make his Edinburgh debut against Dragons
Outside centre Robbie Fruean is in contention to make his Edinburgh debut against Dragons

A 20-10 away win at Cardiff Blues got the capital side up and running on a pleasingly positive note but the work in progress continues this Friday. On paper the clear logic would be that a side that can win in Cardiff should have no problems seeing off the weakest Welsh region Dragons at home, but Edinburgh have been a stranger to rationality for the best part of a decade and nothing can be taken for granted.

In the penultimate game of last season they did get the better of the men from Newport-Gwent to break a nine-game losing streak, but only after a dramatic and desperate late fightback. Cockerill saw a lot that he liked at the Arms Park last Friday but also plenty of the flaws which he has been brutally honest about since agreeing to take on the job.

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“You could see the doubts of last season probably coming in when it was 10-10 and you are probably thinking this is really a pivotal moment for us,” he recalled. “We dug ourselves back into the game and got control and were unlucky not to score more tries.

“Defensively and mentally there was fantastic physicality. That should be the bare minimum. Commitment should not be commended. It should be expected really. I am very happy with that.”

The Dragons will travel north after being thumped 39-16 at home by Leinster and Cockerill is looking forward to getting new centre signing Robbie Fruean into the fray at Myreside as the former Crusaders and Bath man comes back from a knee injury.

Six-times capped Scotland wing Dougie Fife picked up an ankle knock in Cardiff and is likely to be out, but Cockerill shed light yesterday on his decision to bring the 27-year-old back to the fold, and a starting spot, after he was released to the Sevens programme last season.

“Dougie is an experienced international 15s player and I think he is a very good player. It adds depth to the squad and they are Scottish-qualified guys and all very desperate to play for Scotland and Edinburgh,” said the 46-year-old Englishman.

“We have three sevens guys in the programme at the moment. James Johnstone and Jamie Farndale too, which adds a bit of depth to the squad. I would like to have them but that’s a wider discussion.

“If I can have them – and those discussions are always up for debate – I would like them in the squad. John Dalziel is running the Sevens programme and it would be pretty tough on him.

“We’ve got to work through that. It’s not just about me pulling rank. It’s about making sure the whole thing works.

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“I believe that the Sevens programme is to produce players for the 15s and national side, but we have to make that work within the whole programme. I will be pushing hard to try and keep those lads if I can.”

Fife turned pro with Edinburgh six years ago and scored a try for Scotland in Paris during the 2015 Six Nations but his momentum stalled and he was deemed surplus to requirements at the pro team at the end of the 2015-16 season and shunted to the abbreviated game.

Cockerill made clear he would like to make use of those players available to him while he can. “All three have been with us full-time for the whole pre season. They are already training for the sevens but their competitions don’t start until December I think. I’m not overly clued up on sevens,” said former hooker Cockerill with smile.

“I’d like to keep them until then if I can. If those guys start commanding places in or around the 23 then you’d like to give them best shot at playing 15s.”

As for this Friday’s match, Cockerill said: “We will do our homework and make sure we do all our bits right. If we are a bit off [Dragons] are good enough to cause us problems.”