Richard Cockerill’s improving Edinburgh careful not to be cocky

Edinburgh's Grant Gilchrist and Duncan Hodge 'at the launch of Premier Sports' coverage of the Guinness Pro14.' 'Picture: Ross Parker/SNS
Edinburgh's Grant Gilchrist and Duncan Hodge 'at the launch of Premier Sports' coverage of the Guinness Pro14.' 'Picture: Ross Parker/SNS
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There may be murmurings around Scottish rugby that this could be the season that sees a changing of the guard, with Edinburgh emerging from Glasgow’s shadow.

Unsurprisingly, however, there is no such big talk 
coming from the capital pro-team.

Edinburgh haven’t finished a season in a higher place than their rivals from the west since the 2010-11 season but the Richard Cockerill revival has many considering that prospect on the eve of the new Guinness Pro14 season.

“It’s not a competition between us,” insisted Edinburgh attack coach Duncan Hodge. “If you look at our [Conference B] there are some good teams there – Ulster, Leinster, Scarlets…

“Dragons have improved, Treviso have improved, Southern Kings will be better. Our objective is to do as well as we can. Yes, we will come across Glasgow three times and that will bring bragging rights then, but it’s about us getting our jobs right and 
getting as high up our league as we can.”

Edinburgh took the local bragging rights last season as they reclaimed the 1872 Cup by edging the derby series 2-1.

Cockerill was adamant then that he viewed that mini-victory as a parochial irrelevance in the wider context of his plan to make Edinburgh – on their way to a quarter-final finish after placing third – genuine Pro14 contenders.

Glasgow won their Conference A but faded towards the end of the season, which has contributed to sense of momentum shift.

But Hodge prefers to keep a lid on that and focus on what will be a formidable challenge to repeat last season’s 15-win regular-season campaign.

“Every pre-season people talk about improving,” he said ahead of tomorrow evening’s cross-conference opener away to Ospreys in Swansea. “But it’s a relative rate of improvement. We could be ten per cent better but if Ulster are 30 per cent better then we’ve lost ground.

“Pre-season is always difficult. You know you are potentially better than you were, but you don’t really know until you start facing other teams. It’s going to be tougher than last year, and people also know a bit more about what to expect from us. I don’t think they will take us lightly.

“We have a fairly fit squad and not picked up any injuries, while a lot of people have had a good hit. We’ve played two good teams and had two physical workouts, both of them in decent conditions.

“There have been bit of play in both games that we are either working on or happy with so there’s lots of stuff to get our teeth into. We were competitive against Bath [losing 12-10] and it was good to get a win [23-13] at Newcastle.”

Lock Grant Gilchrist also balks at any suggestion that, after a decade of underachievement, resurgent Edinburgh might be among the favourites for the competition this season.

“I don’t know about that,” said the Scotland forward. “We had a good season last year, but we understand that the challenge is going to be a lot bigger this year.

“We surprised a lot of teams last year – we won’t be surprising teams this year. They know what we’re about, and we’re going to have to up our game considerably just to stay where we were last year, which was in the play-offs.

“That was a really great achievement, but we want to kick on and understand the size of the task that will be.”

That task starts with a trip to a Liberty Stadium which has proved a daunting venue for Edinburgh in the past.

“Yeah, they’re a strong side, a lot of Welsh internationals throughout that team,” added Gilchrist, who has not featured in the pre-season games due to his involvement with Scotland’s summer tour but is available for selection this week.

“It’s always a tough battle down there. From memory, we always seem to do well against them at home and they always seem to do well against us down there.

“That certainly puts the ball in our court to see if we can reverse that. They’ve got a lot of experience – guys like Alun-Wyn Jones, Justin Tipuric, Scott Williams in the centre. They’ve got quality.”