Richard Cockerill to bring firebrand leadership to Edinburgh

Edinburgh Rugby unveiled their new head coach in a city centre eaterie yesterday afternoon. Richard Cockerill will be the ninth man to pick up this poisoned chalice since 2006'¦ if you include those who got the gig on a temporary basis, such as Duncan Hodge who did just that'¦ twice.

New head coach Richard Cockerill is determined to turn around under-performing Edinburghs fortunes. Picture: Gary Hutchison/SNS/SRU
New head coach Richard Cockerill is determined to turn around under-performing Edinburghs fortunes. Picture: Gary Hutchison/SNS/SRU

Whatever else you say about Cockerill, and he has always been marmite, at least the Englishman brings a certain energy and enthusiasm to the task in hand, which is more than you could say for his cerebral South African 
predecessor Alan Solomons.

Edinburgh have a proud history of hopeless underperformance, finishing in the bottom five of the Pro12 ever since the competition expanded to include the Italian duo in 2010. What does Cockerill bring that makes him think he can turn around a club that is so resolutely determined to play below their capacity?

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“It’s a good challenge,” Cockerill replied. “A good opportunity to get in the middle of a club that has struggled over the past few years. I have never had to build a club that has struggled in the past from a culture point of view. It won’t be a quick fix with me turning up but I like the thought of 
having that challenge.

“The Scotland players you have to manage and I knew that [they will be occasionally unavailable] so there is no point moaning about that when I have come in. I have to get the best out of what I 
have got.”

We had heard much of this stuff before, three years before to be exact when Solomons was handed the reins. It seems to be universally acknowledged that Edinburgh are better than their recent results have indicated.

Even the players appear to agree because they found the wherewithal to beat Glasgow at Scotstoun for the first time in the final match of last 

“Last game of the season I was hoping we don’t get beaten by 40 ,” said Cockerill, “and we go and win! They’ve got it in them haven’t they. So how do we cultivate that every week?

“People keep saying that we should be a top-six team, well the reality is that we’ve never finished above eighth so why the hell should we be sixth. So, we’ve got to actually realise where we are at first before we start to actually improve – because otherwise we are just in denial.

“I think there is a good core of players there. I need to create an environment where they are hard working and will put their bodies on the line every week to get better.

“They can’t be just waiting for the next Test match to come along. From the outside that is a perception from myself.”

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That perception is shared by a good few spectators and if anyone can stir the club into action it may just be the former Tiger who insisted that he won’t hesitate to show any slackers the exit door.

At the risk of getting on the wrong side of the Kirk, Cockerill also threatened to work his squad on the day of rest if needs be and he referred to the culture within Edinburgh rugby as “weak”.

When asked to expand on that, the firebrand had this to say: “Understanding how a proper training week works and how hard you have to work.

“For example if we play 
Friday and then Friday again then we will take Saturday as our day off and train Sundays.

“Whatever game day is we will work back and work the best training week and if that is Sunday then it is a Sunday we will train.

“I have a wife and three kids. I don’t really want to train on a Sunday but if that is best for performances then that 
is my job and what we have 
to do.”

Edinburgh’s recent history may be hopeless but the omens look a little brighter because the last man to have any success with the club was another angry Englishman in the form of Andy Robinson who took Edinburgh to 
second place in the league.

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Cockerill has not fixed on a club captain yet but he acknowledged that leaders are in short supply and he may spring a surprise.

He doesn’t have the quality available at Leicester or especially Toulon where he took the club to the Top 14 final but he rightly pointed out the race does not always go to the 

“Hopefully they [the players] are working a little harder and a little smarter than they were last year. I want them to step up to the plate. If they don’t then there will be conversations about what they will do moving forward. There are a couple of guys always gone.

“They don’t have to be the world’s best players and that’s ok. If they give me everything, every day and commit to the cause, there is huge value in that.”