Cockerill previews Rainbow Cup kick-off
Get the latest from Head Coach Richard Cockerill as he previews the upcoming Rainbow Cup kick-off, gives an update on squad injuries and shares insight in to the recently announced trial law variations.
On current injuries in the squad
"With Stuart McInally, we hope he'll be fit for Glasgow Warriors which is great.
"Rory Sutherland is having more scans on his shoulder to decide whether he needs surgery or whether it can just be rehabbed.
"First diagnosis was a lot better than it could have been, potentially, so we’re hoping now that he will have another scan which will show a bit more detail and, hopefully, we’ll be able to avoid the surgeon’s knife.
“It would still be several weeks if it was non-surgical. It would put him in the timeframes potentially to be in and around some of those tours, but it would be touch and go I think.”
“Darcy has had surgery on his shoulder to repair a long-standing issue.
"That was scanned last week and the best form of treatment, given where we are in the season, is to have surgery to repair the injury, and that will probably be the best part of between 12 and 16 weeks to recover.”
On the messaging and momentum going in to the Rainbow Cup
“We’ll use this first game in particular to give some guys experience and blood a few guys who may not have started for the club before, then there is a week off for us followed by two big derby games.
"We'll use this week and next to get some regeneration to some of the guys who've been away in international camp and need a bit of rest and a reboot.
“It is then Glasgow, Glasgow, so there is some meaningful games there and if guys are wanting to put their hands up for tours this summer, there is motivation there from a personal point of view to perform well.
"We'll also use it to help the development of some of our younger guys, looking to next season."
On Zebre being the 'last opportunity to impress' before Lions selection
“I don’t think the Zebre game is, because I think those decisions will already be made, really. I’m not sure a wonderful game against Zebre is going to be the thing that swings you into a Lions tour.
"I'm sure there will be plenty of debate around who is selected and there will be some very good players not on the plane to South Africa.
"But as we've seen over numerous tours, you might not get picked and be on standby or even not in the reckoning at all, and it only takes an injury or two and suddenly you are propelled into a tour and end up starting in Test matches. I've seen that when I was at Leicester with players.
“It’s a long tour, there will be a lot of injuries and instances which will happen, so if you don’t get picked in the first draft there is always a chance that you can get an opportunity later in the tour.
“There is a lot of rugby to be played still, and there is going to be some twists and turns before the Lions play that first Test against South Africa.
On Hamish Watson's chances of Lions selection
"Hamish has had a fantastic 6 Nations and that was obviously recognised with him being named Player of the Tournament.
"As I've said previously, he was very consistent and delivered a very top end performance every time he played.
"He's clearly a very very good player. Will he be a British & Irish Lion? Well we'll have to wait and see because that's for other people to decide, but he's certainly put himself in a place where he's going to be centre of that conversation.
"There is some real quality to pick from and sometimes it's combinations isn't it, and a focus on guys who can play multiple position, as Warren Gatland has spoken about regarding flexibility and potentially picking a smaller squad.
"But Hamish can do no more than he's already done. I think he's put himself in the best position to get picked and then it's obviously a subjective choice on whether he goes or not.
On the recently announced Rainbow Cup law variations
"They won't particularly change our preparation or tactics. There will obviously be the goal line drop-outs and there will be bits around that we can prepare for and see how that plays out.
"With the red cards and captain's challenge, we'll have to see how they work out. With the Southern Hemisphere rugby, that's obviously worked, but it does take a big chunk of time, and with my experience in the league, the TMOs can already find it hard to get a good angle, so that might be tricky when it comes to the captain's challenge too.
"As a squad, we've obviously had a good discussion about the law variations and in particular the strategy around goal line drop-outs and getting the players to understand the exact law so we can use it our advantage.
On South African team's participation in the Rainbow Cup
"At this point, it's still there to be decided. We hope so because it would be great to get them over and to play them.
"But the following the season we've had, and the world we live in, who knows if that's going to happen. If it does great, and if it doesn't, we'll just get on with the task at hand."