Cockerill on Zebre challenge

Head Coach Richard looks ahead to this weekend's Guinness PRO14 opener against Zebre at BT Murrayfield.

Read Head Coach Richard Cockerill's press notes as he spoke with the media ahead of Saturday's Guinness PRO14 opener against Zebre:

On losing Henry Pyrgos to the national team

“Henry’s got a lot of experience, but we’ve got good coverage with Nic Groom, so two very good, experienced scrum-halves. It’s not perfect, but you can’t deny Henry the opportunity. He’s a very good player and there’s a very good chance he can add to what Scotland are doing.

“Charlie Shiel will be delighted that Henry’s gone. Charlie’s a good young player and he’ll step up and get his opportunity to be part of the 23.”

On Nic Groom captaining the side

“He's a good player, good leader, understands the game very well, has a calm manner about him. There’s other guys that are starting to find fitness and form. Matt Scott, Mark Bennett have been very good in pre-season, which is very pleasing to see, and we’re hoping that they start the season on a positive note. Lewis Carmichael coming back into the team and he’s a good leader as well. With guys like Fraser McKenzie, there’s lots of leaders in that group. But Nic will be vital.”

Update on injuries

“Unfortunately, Ruan Steenkamp got concussion versus Ospreys, so he won’t be available this week. He’s doing well.

“Chris Dean’s going to have surgery on a pec injury, so he’s going to miss three or four months. That’s pretty much it. The rest of them are pretty good.”

How would you sum up last season?

“A work in progress, really. From the first year where we weren’t in Europe, getting to the play-offs was pleasing. We proved we can compete with the big teams on our day.

“I think last year we went into every game to win it and I still think that was the right thing to do. We had a good run in Europe and were unlucky with injuries - and because we were doing well, we had more international call-ups. With injuries and those international call-ups, we were very short of players at vital periods. And we weren’t good enough.

“So our consistency was a lot bit lacking. Yeah, work in progress is probably the best phrase.

“I think we’ll be better again this year. We’re starting to contribute a huge amount of players to Scotland, so that’s a pleasing thing, but we’ve become the victims of our own success to a point.”

How much better do you expect to be this season?

“I expect us to be competing and trying to be in play-offs. We’re not in the big European competition, but we’ll look to rotate and develop parts of our squad. But guys have got to earn that. If they haven’t worked hard enough to get on the field, they won’t get on the field.

“I expect us as a bare minimum to be competing for play-offs in the PRO14.”

Can Edinburgh go all the way?

“If we can get to a play-off, we’ve proved we can beat the Montpeliers and Toulons, Glasgow. We’ve been toe to toe with Munster in quarter-finals in two occasions and just fallen short.

“So we know in a one-off game we’ve been good enough to beat teams. Can we do that three games on the trot? That’s still be proved. It’s the Holy Grail for any team, really.

“I’m not going to put on a label saying we’re good enough to win the league, or we’re going to win the league, because I’m not sure that’s realistic yet. It may be a difficult year with the World Cup - guys will come back and need rest, then there’s the Six Nations, then there is a tour where they go to South Africa twice then New Zealand.”

How do you become more consistent?

“We’re going to have to invest more in our squad, because if we have 12 guys away on Test duty and stipulations on resting guys, and the summer tours are later, we’re going to need a bigger squad.

“I’ve been talking about deeper squads since I arrived. I don’t think Mark Dodson expects an easy conversation. But that’s part of working together with the union.

“Last year we were taking players on loan from the Championship to make our squad up. With respect to everybody, the Leinsters and the Munsters, who are trying to win the league, aren’t doing that. Glasgow, who are trying to win the league, aren’t doing that. With the budgets we have, that’s where we’re at.”

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