Edinburgh Rugby coach Richard Cockerill has expressed his sadness for the city of Leicester he called home for much of his life after the tragic events of the weekend.
Cockerill, who spent the bulk of his playing and coaching career with Leicester Tigers, sent his “heartfelt condolences” following the horrific helicopter crash which killed Leicester City FC owner Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha, two members of staff, the pilot and a passenger after the aircraft spiralled out of control outside the King Power Stadium on Saturday evening.
“It is very sad,” said Cockerill yesterday. “The owner of [Thai travel retail firm] King Power [Srivaddhanaprabha] has done a huge amount for Leicester as a city. They have taken the football club into the Premiership and turned them into champions.
“Heartfelt condolences go out to the family and Leicester city and the people of Leicester.”
Cockerill spoke of the close bonds between the football and rugby clubs in a city which is famous for its equal appreciation for both codes.
“Over the years there has been contact both socially and professionally,” said Cockerill. “Football in the city is huge as is the rugby. When I first played there you would have a full Filbert Street [Leicester’s old football ground] and a full Welford Road with same kick-off times. So football and rugby are very well connected. It is very sad. As I have been listening to over the past few days Srivaddhanaprabha was one of the better owners. Hopefully what happened does not affect Leicester City. It is very sad indeed.
“We have friends in the city and the football and rugby fans are close and many support both and have season tickets at both. It puts a lot of things in perspective.”
One of the things put into perspective is Edinburgh’s disappointing 34-16 defeat away to Zebre last Saturday and the challenge to raise a depleted squad for this Friday’s crucial home clash with Conference B play-off rivals Scarlets.
Injuries to back-rowers Magnus Bradbury and Luke Crosbie have added to Cockerill’s problems as he waits to hear which of his players he may have released back to him from the Scotland autumn Tests squad.
As well as youngsters Callum Hunter-Hill and Callum Atkinson set to feature again after playing in Parma, Cockerill has drafted back-rower Ally Miller from the Sevens squad and revealed that No 8 Bill Mata would be released by Fiji for Friday’s match.
Of course, Scarlets have a raft of players with Wales ahead of Saturday’s Doddie Weir Cup match, which falls outside the Test release window, against the Scots in Cardiff but the Edinburgh coach, pictured right, said: “I think they’ve got a deeper squad and they’re a more experienced squad - that’s what money buys.
“It’s ironic that [Scotland call-up] Blade Thomson is going to be playing against us. Given we’ve got probably 20-plus players missing from our squad of 45, it doesn’t take much to get down to the bare bones, does it? So we’ll see. Who knows? The season’s not over – it’s two games. At the moment things are conspiring against us a little bit.”
Cockerill admitted he was still left scratching his head a bit about last Friday’s loss in Italy, which saw Edinburgh let slip a match they appeared to have early control of.
“It was a difficult game to review – we played reasonably well for most of the game,” said the coach. “First half we controlled the game very well, but if you make simple errors ... There were three really cheap tries for nothing.
“We’ve got some young guys in there that were playing for the first time and they slowly started to run out of energy. You have to learn the lessons of that.
“I expected us to stay in the fight a little bit more, and I expected a bit more from some of our senior players at times. They had all their internationals back in the squad, which was pretty unhelpful to us.
“But that’s what you get if you’re inaccurate and you miss vital parts of the game when it’s a really tight fixture anyway. I’m just disappointed, because we’re better than that. I don’t feel let down, because the players worked hard. But you can’t give cheap tries away.”