Richard Cockerill says ‘underpowered’ Edinburgh will be ready for Ulster clash

Head coach admits Glasgow defeat was poor fare but his squad has ‘clean bill of health’ for Pro14 semi-final

Edinburgh’s Darcy Graham went off injured in Friday night’s Pro14 defeat by Glasgow. Photograph: Craig Williamson/SNS Group

Edinburgh coach Richard Cockerill swiftly brushed off an “underpowered” performance in Friday night’s 15-3 loss to Glasgow to focus on Saturday’s huge Guinness Pro14 semi-final against Ulster back at BT Murrayfield.

On a chilly night, 700 home season ticket holders became the first to experience a live sporting event since the coronavirus shutdown but had little to shout about as the Warriors slowly took a grip on a very poor match to end the regular season.

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Edinburgh’s players seemed to be holding at least ten per cent back. Glasgow didn’t provide much more spark but proved too strong. They had made just three personnel changes to the starting side compared with the home team’s ten but there was a late reshuffle as Rob Harley was pushed into second row when veteran Scotland lock Richie Gray was withdrawn as a member of his family awaits a coronavirus test result.

Richard Cockerill says Edinburgh will be going all out to win the Pro14. Picture: Ross Parker/SNS/SRU

“This is the biggest game in our history coming up against Ulster,” said Cockerill, right. “From a league point of view it certainly is, we have never been in a semi-final before. We are a game away from a final and having a bash. For us to be champions we have to beat Ulster and then one of Munster and Leinster, which is a big ask but we have come this far so why not have a crack at it?

“There’s a few bumps and bruises but that’s to be expected. Darcy [Graham] was taken off as a precaution but now has 79 minutes under his belt. We have two days off, we will come back Monday and hopefully we will have a bit more about us next Saturday.”

Cockerill admitted it was low-quality fare for the returning paying punters but is expecting fireworks at the national stadium on Saturday even if the atmosphere from the stands isn’t much different.

“We are going to try and win the tournament but we know Ulster are a great side,” said the Englishman. “We were under par in the forward pack and it showed out there.

“Glasgow are a good side but it was a pretty poor game full stop. We could have all gone home at half-time and not missed anything. It was that sort of game. It was what it was.

“We were just a little underpowered, you could see that from the scrum. We were a little bit lightweight in the back five. That affected us a bit.

“We have had some good minutes under our belt and looked after our players and have a clean bill of health going into the semi final. The big game for us is next weekend.”

For Danny Wilson it was relief to get a win under his belt after taking on the head coach role at Glasgow but he knows it is now all about building for the new Pro14 season which starts in just under five weeks.

Firstly, on the Gray situation, Wilson explained: “He had a family member that he was waiting for a test result from. He couldn’t come into the bubble without taking a big risk until that result was confirmed.

“Richie’s got no symptoms. Had the test results come back before kick-off, Richie would have played. They still weren’t in at 5.50pm so we couldn’t take that gamble.”

On the performance, the former Cardiff Blues boss and Scotland forwards coach said: “Our defensive display was excellent. Let’s remember you can list the internationals for Edinburgh, so for us to limit them to three points is a big step in the right direction. Credit to Kenny Murray and the defensive work. We have put a lot of time into that.

“We left some points out there. We applied some good pressure and dominated set-piece so we have to look at how we didn’t convert those points.

“Our breakdown was much better, it was a big emphasis going into the game. The attacking breakdown was poor last week, we didn’t win enough races, didn’t do enough on the floor. Both those things we did better and we had some better combinations in that area. That coupled with a really good defensive display was pleasing.”

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