Edinburgh finished top of the heap last season before losing to Ulster in the Pro14 play-off semi-final at BT Murrayfield. The drop-off in form seems stark but it’s been an unusual year.
Danny Wilson at Glasgow is in a similar position but Cockerill seemed a little irked when it was put to him that SRU boss Mark Dodson had said that both pro teams need to improve.
“We do,” said the Edinburgh coach. “But I could do with having my players available more often, simple as that.
“With more internationals and less money then clearly we are going to have more of a problem. Clearly we need to win more games, we need to step up and perform better on a regular basis but everybody has to be realistic over the resources we have, simple as that.
“There are some mitigating factors round why the pro teams have not been as successful as they would have liked.”
In Dodson’s defence, he acknowledged as much but professional sport is an unforgiving business.
“'We are not making excuses, but we have explained to Danny and Richard that things have to get better,” the SRU chief executive told the Scottish Rugby Podcast. “But this is not a season to judge anybody. It is an extraordinary season and we have to look to next season and the player acquisition we are doing.”
The absence of fans has led to a drop in revenue which in turn has impacted on player budgets. The pro clubs have also been deprived of their Scotland players for most of the season due to the extended international campaign.
The new date for the France v Scotland match will prolong the Six Nations by another week and impact once more on Cockerill’s plans.
“If you purely look at results, they have got worse but if you look at the circumstances we are all playing in any sensible person will understand the challenges we have,” he said.
Last weekend’s home defeat by Scarlets makes a top-three finish almost impossible but Edinburgh get back on the horse on Sunday with a home game against bottom side Benetton.
Stand-off Jaco van der Walt misses out with an ankle injury but should be available for Scotland next week.
Fellow internationals David Cherry and Simon Berghan will play against Benetton but Grant Gilchrist and Darcy Graham will stay with Gregor Townsend’s Six Nations squad and are replaced in the Edinburgh team by fit-again lock Andrew Davidson and winger Jack Blain. Viliame Mata misses out with a bruised shoulder.
Cockerill also confirmed that the arrival of Ben Vellacott in the summer from Wasps means that one of Edinburgh’s scrum-halves will leave
“Yeah, look, we’ve got to balance the finances, and one of our senior nines will move on,” said the coach.
Edinburgh: Damien Hoyland; Jack Blain, James Johnstone, George Taylor, Eroni Sau; Nathan Chamberlain, Charlie Shiel; Pierre Schoeman, David Cherry, Lee-Roy Atalifo, Magnus Bradbury, Andrew Davidson, Luke Crosbie, Ally Miller, Nick Haining.
Replacements: Mike Willemse, Boan Venter, Simon Berghan, Andries Ferreira, Mesu Kunavula, Henry Pyrgos, Charlie Savala, Mark Bennett.