NEWS | McInally enjoying renaissance under Cockerill

Stuart McInally has praised Edinburgh head coach Richard Cockerill as he prepares for Scotland’s opening Autumn Test with Samoa on Saturday at BT Murrayfield.

Cockerill, who made over 250 appearances for Leicester during a stellar playing career, was himself a tenacious hooker and it is clear that 27-year-old McInally has been enjoying working with the former England cap since the latter joined the club in the summer.

With injuries to Ross Ford and Fraser Brown hitting Scotland, McInally, who currently has nine full caps to his name, knows that the next three weeks are a big opportunity for himself, George Turner and Neil Cochrane to claim the national team’s number two jersey.

And the former back-row man is certainly high on confidence ahead of clashes with Samoa, New Zealand and Australia thanks to working closely with Cockerill over the past few months.

“I was obviously delighted to be named in the Autumn squad first and foremost, I also feel for Ross and Fraser because I have had injuries in the past myself, but now it is up to me to show what I can do,” the former Watsonians player said.

“I’m just playing more this season with Edinburgh and that has helped my confidence. It’s the most settled I have felt at Edinburgh, since I joined, playing every week and I owe a lot to Richard.

“He took a bit of a gamble on me at the start of the year and he was happy for me to play - and play a lot - and that was great for me.

“I think at the start of this year the most I’d ever played at hooker was two games in a row, so it’s been really good to start a number of games since.

“It has been a massive confidence booster, working on lineouts and scrums tirelessly at training and everything that goes with it.

“Richard gives me hints and tips. There’s one for striking the ball at the scrum he gave me, a little technique he used to use back in the day and he did say it might work, it might not’, but actually I use it and it works really well. I owe that to him.

The good thing about Richard is that he knows the pressure you’re under as a hooker at set piece time, but he doesn’t put heaps of pressure on me. If I throw the odd bad lineout he doesn’t mind so long as I’m contributing around the pitch.

He is a really smart technical coach. He can be hard on us, don’t get me wrong, but in terms of what I’ve got out of him and the way he approaches training it has been a big bonus.”

He took a bit of a gamble on me at the start of the year and he was happy for me to play - and play a lot - and that was great for me.

Two other recent bonus for those of an Edinburgh persuasion lately were the selections of uncapped front-row men Darryl Marfo and Neil Cochrane in Gregor Townsend’s wider squad of 38.

“Darryl has been hugely impressive since he joined Edinburgh in the summer,” McInally said of the 27-yearold loosehead prop who qualifies for Scotland through his Ayrshire-born mother. You won’t meet a more professional guy in terms of someone who comes in, does his work, then does his homework.

“He is frequently taking laptops away to watch scrums at home, he is a bit of a scrum nerd as we call him. He just loves scrummaging so much.

“He’ll sometimes take the scrum presentations at Edinburgh because he just wants to get his point across. He’s been playing a lot and every game he’s been getting better and better. Hard work pays off, and it shows because he is now in the Scotland squad. He’s really humbled and proud to be in this international environment.”

As for 33-year-old fellow hooker Cochrane, McInally added: “I spend a lot of time with Neil - I have done since he arrived at Edinburgh three or four years ago.

“He’s just a great man to have around. If I never need to do extra throwing or anything, he’ll always be there, similar to Ross[Ford] really, all the hookers work well together.

“I know Neil has dreamed of being in the Scotland set-up for years and never ever thought it was going to happen, he thought his time had gone.

“He is chuffed to get the call, I am so happy for him to get recognised. He’s a quality player and whenever he’s played for Edinburgh he’s been brilliant.”