Cockerill - Some big days ahead
Head Coach Richard Cockerill shares his verdict following today’s announcement of a proposed return to Guinness PRO14 action in August, as well the confirmation of Edinburgh Rugby’s place in next season’s Heineken Champions Cup.
With the PRO14 today setting target dates to conclude the 19-20 season – including back-to-back fixtures again Glasgow Warriors – how happy are you that rugby is back on the horizon?
“I think it’s good for everybody. It’s great to firstly not only have a date for an invite to voluntary fitness for the players, but now we can work towards a target of matches and we know when we’ll hopefully be playing again. Obviously, there will be some hurdles to get over first, but it’s a really positive step forward for all of us at the club.
“It will be great to have something for ourselves – coaches and players – supporters and everyone connected to the club to look forward to it. It’s been a tough few months, but we now look forward to getting back to rugby safely.
“It will be great to hopefully face off against Glasgow in what are always intense derby fixtures, and hopefully we’ll get some positive performances and results and perhaps down the line the club will be looking forward to a Guinness PRO14 Semi-Final.”
Is the mind set now moving forward that you’re four games away from a Championship and three games away from the club’s first-ever PRO14 Final?
“I’d say so, yeah. We’re obviously in different circumstances than normal. In my position as Head Coach, we could have obviously liked to have finished the season and tested ourselves against the likes of Munster at home and Ulster away to earn the right to be in a play-off – which I think we would have been good enough to do.
“But, we’re now in a position where the season has obviously been cut short and we have an opportunity - because of where we sat prior to the league’s suspension – to kick on and we want to take that opportunity. We’re at where we’re at because of circumstance and now have the challenge of two big derby games, which are important regardless of the points.
“If we can get some decent points out of those two derby games then that will give us a decent chance of securing top spot and a home Semi-Final.”
Today’s PRO14 announcement also sees the club secure a place in the Heineken Champions Cup for 2020-21, with qualification decided by Conference position after Round 13 of fixtures. How delighted are you to be back at the top table of European rugby for next season?
“It’s brilliant news. The top table of Europe is always something we want to be part of on a regular basis because that’s where the best and consistent teams play.
“We’ve tasted a bit of success in the Champions Cup last season with big wins over Toulon and Montpellier as well as Quarter-Final against Munster and qualification for next season’s competition means we’re once again dining with the big boys of European rugby.”
“We’ve tasted that and got that experience under our belts and qualification for the Champions Cup is brilliant for Edinburgh as a club and a city – it puts us back on the map and give us an opportunity to once again have a good crack at it.
“Although there are no easy games in Europe, because of where we finished in the league means we’ll have a decent seeding and hopefully we’ll have a favourable draw. However, looking at some of those teams, there will still be some big French clubs in the mix, but we look forward to that challenge.
“We showed we could do that last season with big wins over Montpellier and back-to-back victories over Newcastle Falcons and Toulon, so it’s really a challenge we cherish.
“With the construction of our new stadium back underway, there’s a lot of positives now to look forward to and clearly sport can play a big part in people’s lives as we look to move out of this COVID-19 pandemic.
“There’s hopefully some big days ahead for Edinburgh Rugby and our supporters.”
Finally, the players have now been invited to voluntary fitness sessions at BT Murrayfield from next Monday. How much of a positive step forward is this for Edinburgh Rugby?
“Yeah I think it’s a really positive step forward. If you look around, the French sides have already started, the Italian teams have got back to training, as well as the English clubs too.
“I think it will be great for the players to get back into the stadium and get back into a bit of a routine, and ultimately start preparing themselves physically and mentally for what’s ahead.
“We obviously have a massive opportunity to finish this season on a high and have a good crack at the title to see how good we really are, while next season – when that is confirmed – will be on us quick enough.
“There’s some really big days ahead to come for Edinburgh Rugby. Two derby games, hopefully a Semi-Final and once you get to knockout rugby, who knows what can happen. We’re looking forward to the challenge.”