Richard Cockerill: 1872 Cup not high on list of priorities

Edinburgh head coach Richard Cockerill looks ahead to their 1872 Cup match against Glasgow Warriors. Picture: Craig Williamson/SNS/SRU
Edinburgh head coach Richard Cockerill looks ahead to their 1872 Cup match against Glasgow Warriors. Picture: Craig Williamson/SNS/SRU
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If you listened to the little Englishman speaking yesterday, Richard Cockerill doesn’t care about the 1872 Cup, so it’s a good job that his players seem to like winning the thing. They have done just that in two of the previous three years and Edinburgh put down an early
marker on this year’s trophy
with their short-handed 
18-17 victory over Glasgow at Murrayfield last Saturday.

“My only interest is in our performance and in the league, points,” the Edinburgh head coach said ahead of today’s inter-city clash at Scotstoun, the second leg of what is now a three-match series. “The trophy part of it is secondary. With all respect to the 1872 Cup it’s not high on my list of priorities, which are a good performance from us, making sure we put our best game out there and making sure we take a step in the right direction.

“I said last week that if we won we hadn’t solved all our problems and that if we lost it wasn’t a disaster and it’s exactly the same this week. We’ve won one game by a point at the death and we took our luck on the day – that’s fine, but I thought we played pretty well as well. We’ve still got lots of things to build on, we’re still not in the same calibre as Glasgow. We’re not in the Champions Cup, and Glasgow have proved over a number of years that they’re a very good team.”

Edinburgh withstood the fifth-minute sending off of their prop Simon Berghan last week to pip Glasgow with a late try from Chris Dean, 
pictured inset, but Cockerill feels his side did not get the credit they deserved.

“I get a little bit frustrated that it was all about how poorly they played that let us win, really. I thought we played very well. I disagree that we dragged them into an arm-wrestle.

“The game was the game. I thought we did our bits pretty well. We were compromised clearly at the set piece with the man down, then when you put [flanker] Jamie [Ritchie] back on [with winger Dougie Fife sacrificed] you’re compromised with the width.

“But I thought we played some decent stuff and we’re going to go there [Scotstoun] and play again and we’re going to go and try and win the game.

“It’s as simple as that: we’re not satisfied with one performance – we’ve got to go there and put our best game out on the field again.”

Cockerill has changed a winning team and he will hope to keep 15 men on the field for the full 80 minutes, something that is increasingly difficult in the modern game. In the only change to the back line, Damian Hoyland replaces Fife on the wing, Cockerill mindful perhaps of his try-scoring exploits at Scotstoun last time out. Ritchie swaps places with Cornell du Preez in the back row, the South African starting on the bench.

“Damien Hoyland has been working hard and has been looking for an opportunity
and I think this is a good opportunity for him,” said Cockerill by way of explanation. “We’ve got a good squad and have rotated a fair bit. Jamie [Ritchie] gives us a different dynamic to Cornell, Vili Mata has been playing very well and Cornell off the bench will give us a good bit of impetus later in the game.

“They’re a better team than us, they’ve consistently shown that, but we proved last week that we’re a good enough side to stay in the battle and that we’re a good enough side if you don’t put us away to win the game. This week it’s a one-off game. We’re going to stay in the battle and we’re going to go there and try to win.

“They’ve got no god-given right to win because they’re Glasgow. I don’t care what they say about our scrum or how poorly they played or it wasn’t about how well we played it was how badly they played. This is about Edinburgh and us going there and putting our best foot forward. If we do we’ll give ourselves a chance to win; if we don’t we could get beaten heavily. But that’s the game and I’ve got no stress with that.”

Matt Shields was playing Championship rugby in England until recently but he gets a chance to start a derby after coming on following Berghan’s red card last Saturday and the versatile Murray McCallum starts in the No 1 shirt in place of Rory Sutherland.

Cockerill pointed out that he was missing a host of international props and the hugely experienced Ross Ford so the coach readily conceded that, for the second Saturday in succession, the front row is one area where Glasgow have a significant edge if they have the nous to make best use of it.

“Yeah, well, they should, really, shouldn’t they?” Cockerill replied when asked about Glasgow’s front row dominance. “Because they’re not missing anybody and we’re missing six international props and the most-capped hooker in Scottish history!

“So, yeah, he’s [Glasgow coach Dave Rennie] right that they should be better than us but we’ll see. Murray McCallum has done a really good job on both sides. Matt Shields is obviously new to the club – he’s been here four weeks and has come from the bottom club in the Championship in England. And we’ve got two relatively unknowns, really, to sit on the bench. So yeah, they should beat us on the scrum but we’ll see. I like the challenge.”

This afternoon will prove whether his team are in 
similarly combative mood.