Edinburgh skipper’s rallying call ahead of summer overhaul

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Edinburgh captain Fraser McKenzie has been assured that there will be some “very good players” coming into the club this summer to supplement the signings of John 
Barclay and Simon Hickey.

On Monday evening it was announced that four players
– Cornell du Preez, Sam Hidalgo-Clyne, Duncan Weir and Jason Tovey – will be heading for the exit door at the end of the current campaign.

Fraser McKenzie prepares for Friday night's crucial Pro14 match at Ulster.

Fraser McKenzie prepares for Friday night's crucial Pro14 match at Ulster.

Head coach Richard Cockerill said that the departures of Scotland caps du Preez and Hidalgo-Clyne were down to finances, stating “it is not possible for us to come up with the sums of money that these sorts of players demand”.

He also said that he would be operating with a smaller squad in 2018/19, but that it would have “more quality”.

One big signing has already been announced by Edinburgh, with Scotland skipper Barclay joining from 
the Scarlets in the summer, while former New Zealand under-20 captain Hickey will come in to battle it out for the stand-off jersey with Jaco van der Walt.

And it is expected that 
Scotland international centre Matt Scott will return from Gloucester for a second spell, but that is still to be confirmed.

Other new arrivals are likely to be announced by Edinburgh in the coming weeks – and second-row McKenzie is confident in the new-look squad that Cockerill is building.

“I am sure there are very good players coming in,” the 29-year-old said.

“There is good knowledge within the coaching team and they see the areas we need to improve and who are the best options.

“You go with it and the people who come in will buy into our culture and, if not, we will get somebody else – that’s how it works.

“I try to take a step back [and try not to look too far ahead], I control the playing side of things and am focused on the current squad.

“That is the squad that is going to get us where we want to be over the next eight games or so. Out of respect for them that is what I want to do, I don’t want to be talking about next season just yet.

“Things are changing here, Cockers has come in and added
that discipline and added that minimum standard, this is a level we have to achieve and if not then you will be replaced.

“You either buy in or you are gone. It is a simple as that and the majority of the squad have looked at it and said ‘we want to be part of this’. It is exciting times. We have had a bit of 
stability and that is starting to show.”

Ahead of Friday’s crucial trip to Ulster in the Guinness 
Pro14 McKenzie, who replaced Magnus Bradbury as skipper back in October, admits it has not been all plain sailing this term.

After the 20-17 home defeat against Benetton Rugby back in September the former Scotland A cap has revealed that the players had a real heart-to-heart behind closed doors to try and sort things out.

“We had a big meeting when we were saying ‘we can’t allow this to happen again [tight losses], is there a mental issue with us?’. We played a lot of games last season when we lost by one or two points and, by doing it again, the pressure was starting to build up,” he explained.

“The head coach wants to have a physical, abrasive side, but also a side that is not afraid to attack, to take the opportunities. That is what we are starting to do now.

“We go to Ulster this Friday for a big Pro14 game and we are starting to think we are never really out of games.

“Teams score an early try, like Leinster did last week, but we don’t panic, our leaders and our playmakers are starting to boss it and I really like that.

“Things are really starting to move forward at this club, that is for sure.”