Press Pass: Cockerill calls for character
Get the latest from Head Coach Richard Cockerill as he met with press ahead of Saturday's trip to face Munster at Thomond Park.
What was your assessment after re-watching Saturday's defeat to Ospreys
“It’s not perfect by a long way. In that run-in to the end of the season there were some big games against good teams. At the weekend we weren’t able to control the game. It reminded me of Ulster a little bit - a reasonably good start, but as soon as we went behind, or certainly 7-7, we seemed to lose our composure.
“Ospreys played well: their experience at 9 and 10 and their leadership with Alun Wyn Jones and Justin Tipuric - they controlled the game. We weren’t good enough leadership-wise to find a way out of that.
“Very disappointing. We’ve got to learn those lessons. We’ve just got to keep working with this group. There are some important guys missing, which is not helpful. But I expect a little bit better from us.”
Do you think the players are still dealing with last season's knockout defeats?
“To be honest, I don’t know. I don’t think so. I thought we put a pretty manful performance together against Bordeaux.
“We have a trait when things go against us, we seem to struggle to get a level head again and get back into the game. So we’ve got to keep working on that. We’re working all the time with the players around their leadership and their decision-making within a game.
“I don’t think it’s a mental thing. It’s a real fickle one. Before that [this run of defeats] we won six on the trot. I would very much like to break the losing cycle, because winning’s a habit and losing is not far behind it.
“We’ve just got to keep improving our squad. We’ve got to show some character and get back into doing what we do well.”
How ready do you think the squad are for the strains that will come with this unusual season?
“Yeah, we’re going to have to, because the season is not going to stop unless the government tell us to.
“If we have 19 positive tests I reckon we won’t be playing because there will be nobody left. That’s the numbers game.
“It’s going to be a very strange season. We’ve got fixtures till Christmas and then we don’t know what’s going to happen after Christmas.
“We can only control Covid to a point around the protocols that we’ve put in place. We’ve had a couple of scares. Look at Munster today.
“If we lose 10-12 guys to Scotland and then we have a spate of injuries or positive Covid tests and we lose another ten guys, any team is going to struggle. We’re going to have to navigate our way through it as best we can.
“We’ve just got to attack it full on and roll with the punches. Make this season work as best we can. It’s going to be a very stop-start season by the looks of it.”
Can you update us on the injury status of the back-row?
“Bill Mata is ruled out. Magnus Bradbury won’t be available. He has a head knock and won’t have gone through the protocols to be available. Luke Crosbie has a grade two hamstring and he will be out for four to six weeks. Jamie Ritchie is available to play.”
How big would a result at Thomond park be for this squad?
“I’d be very happy to get the result, Thomond Park’s not the easiest place to take the points. Of all the places after not getting it right against Ospreys at home, you’ve got to try and turn it round at Thomond against Munster. We don’t make life easy for ourselves.
"I think we’ve got to go there and put in a performance that’s worthy of us as a team. If we get our performance and mentality right, there’s no reason why we can’t push them very hard and be in the game to try to win it. We still have some guys missing but we have a good side and we’ve got to front up. We need positives from the game, hopefully the points, but we need to start playing better in key moments. Munster have a great team but we have our own expectations and standards to live up to.”