Richard Cockerill has no time for ‘small-mindedness’ of 1872 Cup

Richard Cockerill says Glasgow rivalry is just a sideshow as Edinburgh chase a spot in the Champions Cup. Picture: SNS
Richard Cockerill says Glasgow rivalry is just a sideshow as Edinburgh chase a spot in the Champions Cup. Picture: SNS
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Edinburgh coach Richard Cockerill said he is “not fussed” about the 1872 Cup and only has thoughts on getting his side into a first ever play-off spot and back to the top table in Europe with qualification for the Champions Cup.

The capital pro-team are tantalisingly close to achieving those twin objectives and will know what they need to do come kick-off at BT Murrayfield tomorrow evening 
as Ulster’s match against 
Munster concludes.

It would be just rewards for a highly encouraging start to the Cockerill era and more than could have been expected from the Englishman upon his arrival last summer to a club that seemed locked in an unshakeable grip of underachievement.

In that bigger picture, the coach views the 1872 Cup, which is locked at one win apiece, as a mere sideshow compared to the serious business. “My only concern is to qualify,” he said yesterday after making just one change to the team who thumped Scarlets two weeks ago.

“The 1872 Cup is what it is. I am not fussed about that whatsoever. We have got to get out of that small-mindedness. We are here to qualify for Europe and be in the play-offs and that should be our mindset.”

Viliame Mata at No 8 is the only change, with centre James Johnstone keeping his place and Mark Bennett starting on the bench against his former club.

“Johnstone played well against Scarlets. It was the right selection for that game and Mark will be good off the bench at some point,” explained Cockerill. “WP Nel will come back on to the bench for [Murray] McCallum, and the rest is the same.

“Mata’s played well, he’s a threat with ball in hand and he frightens people when he carries the ball. It’s good firepower for us. John Hardie’s still not okay with his back so Jamie Ritchie’s at No 7.”

If Ulster do get the bonus point they need then 
Cockerill said Edinburgh would stick with their aim of winning the game and not entertain thoughts of playing for the losing bonus point that would be enough.

“At the moment we’re just concerned that we’ve got our destiny in our own hands, let’s work on the assumption that Ulster will get what they need and we have to go and get whatever we need,” he said.

“I think that’s a good mindset for us. I’m not sure that Glasgow are a team that you go 
and defend and hope you don’t lose by more than seven.”

That win against a weakened Scarlets side last time out eased some pressure which had started to build after Edinburgh slumped to back-to-back home defeats, against Cardiff in the Challenge Cup and then, crucially, Ulster in the Pro14, which kept the Irish in the hunt.

“Yeah, it will be interesting. As for the expectation of this season we are probably over where we expected to be,” said Cockerill. “This is another test for us. This side is still developing and trying to compete.

“Glasgow are genuine contenders to win the title. The expectation is more on them. They have the better players and bigger budget. It is as simple as that. The pressure is on them to get back on form.

“Their form has not been great. However, in a couple of our big games, Cardiff and Ulster, we have lost our bottle a little bit as well. Now we are genuinely in a position to compete with the good sides when we get it right, we need to see we can do it again.

“We are not genuine contenders to win the title. To have that expectation you are only going to lead yourself to a disappointing place. Qualifying for Europe will be important to us. If we are good enough to get into the play-offs that will be a good experience for us.

“If we have to go to Thomond Park [to face Munster in a quarter-final] we can go there with no expectation or fear around the result and we can go and see how we are in the pecking order.”