Richard Cockerill freely admits that he has had his fair share of problems to deal with in the first few months of his Edinburgh tenure but simply points to the results as proof that any issues have largely been kept off-field.
The coach has had to deal with the distractions of internal disciplinary proceedings against Magnus Bradbury, who was stripped of the captaincy before being reintegrated following a drunken indiscretion, and Scotland flanker John Hardie, who is now serving a three-month ban for “gross misconduct”.
However, Cockerill prefers to focus on what has been happening on the pitch and the fact Edinburgh lie fourth in the Guinness Pro14 Conference B table and can take a big step towards the European Challenge Cup quarter-finals when they host London Irish at Myreside on Saturday evening.
“Yeah, it has [been a problematic start], but we’re six from the last seven and we’ve just got on with it,” said the Englishman.
“The lads that have excluded themselves from the squad because of their behaviour – it’s not affected us. If people don’t want to be part of it, and do things that they shouldn’t do, then they can step aside and other guys will step up, as they have.
“We’ve not missed Bradbury or Hardie when they’ve been missing, because we’ve got guys that have stepped up. Luke Crosbie and Jamie Richie have filled those spaces very well, Vili Mata has come back in and stepped up, and Cornell [du Preez] has been on very good form.
“That’s just how it is. I can only worry about the blokes that can play. Those that can’t, whether they’re injured or there are other things afoot, I have to put that to one side and get on with coaching the team and trying to get us to win, which is what I’m paid to do.”
Cockerill confirmed that Hardie will not even train with the club until his suspension ends in the new year.
“John will be available from January,” said Cockerill. “He’ll come back into the squad and train.
“He’s been disciplined, and we’ll help him rehabilitate himself back to playing again. As a club we have responsibility to help people.
“He’s made an error, he’s been punished, he’s got to come back and work hard and try and force his way into the team.”
Edinburgh go into Saturday’s European clash on the back of a relatively successful trip to South Africa, where they competed well against the Cheetahs before fading and then thumped the struggling Southern Kings in Port Elizabeth with a bonus-point win.
“Logistically it was difficult, but good to be training in a good climate,” said Cockerill of the mini tour.
“Cheetahs was a difficult game, Kings was less troublesome for us. But to have the whole group away – the Scotland guys joined us late, those that could, so that helped – and getting away from the winter or autumn for a couple of weeks was good, it was almost a mini-pre-season within the season.
“It was a good couple of weeks. We were happy with the result at the weekend, and disappointed we didn’t get more out of the Cheetahs game.”
Edinburgh are top of Pool 4 in the Challenge Cup, five points clear of Saturday’s opponents, who they beat in Reading back in October. Cockerill knows that a place in the knockout stage is almost within their grasp, with Russian minnows Krasny Yar in town next weekend.
“We’ve got two home games. We’ve beaten both those sides away from home. We’ve got to make sure we get it right,” said the coach. “Two wins would give us a foot into the quarter-finals. But we won’t get ahead of ourselves. Then we play Stade Francais at home before we play them away so we’d like to think that it’s in our own hands to get a home quarter-final.”