Edinburgh still have one Richard Cockerill hallmark as Gareth Baber update on Fiji issued

It might not have been an exhibition of the free-flowing rugby which casual Edinburgh supporters were hoping to see more of when Mike Blair replaced Richard Cockerill as head coach this summer, but Stevie Lawrie believes that the capital outfit’s gritty 17-10 win over the Bulls in difficult conditions at the DAM Health Stadium on Saturday night was an important moment in the team’s development.

Edinburgh assistant coach Stevie Lawrie.

“I thought we showed really good balance,” insisted the man who stepped up to take charge of the Edinburgh pack ahead of this campaign having been Cockerill’s assistant in this department during the previous two seasons.

“I was really proud of our scrum because there was a real edge there, and that is going to be important against Zebre this coming weekend because they have a really good scrum which had Glasgow in trouble a couple of times towards the back end of their game last week.

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“We also had some big moments with our line-out defence, although we had a disappointing day with our line-out attack, so there are things to fix as well.

“But I was mainly pleased with the attitude,” he added. “I know that is supposed to be a given, but I just think with the crowd there it was a really special vibe on Saturday night.”

Lawrie is still in contact with his old boss, who is now part of the England coaching set-up, and makes no bones of his desire to carry on the work Cockerill did in instilling an uncompromising work-ethic in the Edinburgh pack.

“I learned a lot from Cockers and speaking to him now in his current environment is invaluable,” said the former Edinburgh and Scotland hooker. “I think he’s pretty busy, so they have been short and sharp discussions, but he says he is really enjoying it [the England job].

“And Mike understands the foundations which were laid under Cockers and how important the pack is to the way we want to play, so he’s been great in terms of his support of the work we need to do I that area,” he added.

“I firmly believe that we’ve got a pack who want to work really, really hard for each other, and who really enjoy the dark stuff – and if you enjoy the dark stuff then that allows you to do the stuff in the light which everyone wants to see and talk about.

“So, it is really important that the environment, especially for the forwards, is really tough.”

Meanwhile, Gareth Baber, who will arrive in Edinburgh at the start of December as the club’s new skills and assistant attack coach, is to take charge of Fiji’s Autumn Test schedule against Spain, Wales and Georgia.

With Fiji head coach Vern Cotter and his assistants not allowed to travel to the northern hemisphere due to Covid restrictions, a makeshift management team has been put together. Baber, who oversaw the Fiji Sevens team’s Olympic gold campaign earlier this year, will be assisted by two Scotsmen in Duncan Hodge (the man he is effectively replacing at Edinburgh) and Richie Gray as well as former Ireland captain Rory Best.

Current Edinburgh players Viliame Mata, Mesulame Kunavula and Lee-Roy Atalifo are in the 28-strong Fiji squad, along with their former clubmate Eroni Sau, and former Glasgow duo Niko Matawalu and Leone Nakarawa.