Press Pass: Cockerill on Connacht
Get the latest from Head Coach Richard Cockerill as he spoke with press ahead of Saturday night's Guinness PRO14 match-up with Connacht at The Sportsground.
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On being draw against Racing 92 in the Heineken Champions Cup Round of 16
“A tough draw, but if you’re in that company you’re always going to get a tough draw. We look forward to it. I’ve never been there - as a team we haven’t been to the new stadium.
"They’ve got a fantastic galácticos of a squad, and we look forward to having a fit and available squad and going there and giving it our best shot.
“It’s one of the biggest competitions in world rugby: the best teams with the best players from, worldwide.
We’re excited to be in it. We’re excited to have the opportunity to have all our players together, albeit probably only for six or seven days since they’ve been away for eight weeks and then we go to Paris and play.
“It’s exciting - a one-off where if we get it right we can certainly beat them. It’s something to get our teeth into.”
On the importance of signing prop Luan de Bruin
“It's a very important signing. Remodelling our squad for the budgets that we have, WP Nel has re-signed and is obviously a very, very good player and he’s important to the national team.
"We need to have strength when guys are away, so the opportunity to bring Luan in is a good one for us because he’s available all the year round.
“And as you’re seeing at the moment we’re missing a forward pack away with Scotland pretty much, and a couple of injuries and it leaves us very thin. Look, reduced budgets and holding two Scottish tightheads that go away the whole time has been difficult for us.
“Having guys like Dan Gamble coming through as the next generation is going to be important to us as well.
"We have to supply to the national team, because that’s part of our job and rightly so, but also we have to try and stay as competitive as possible when we don’t have those guys.”
On the Benetton postponement and the possibility of Edinburgh being awarded the win
“Well that’s not the regs, so it’s hard to change the regs mid-tournament, isn’t it? It was decided that all games would be played, that they’d be postponed and rescheduled.
"I’m not sure it’s right and proper that we suddenly change the regs towards the end of the season.
“It’s far from ideal, but the season’s been far from ideal. The Dragons game’s been rescheduled, and at some point we’re going to have to play Benetton to get the season done.
“And all depending on the whys and wherefores of qualifying for Europe, that game could be quite significant. So we need to just go along with it and work with it as best we can.”
On Racing 92 being the biggest test for this Edinburgh side so far
“Not really, because we’ve played Montpellier and Toulon with this group, we’ve been to Bordeaux a couple of times in knockout stages as well. We’ve played some big games in this group. I’ve coached in other teams with big away days.
“Racing are a quality side, I know Laurent Travers very well, the head coach - he coaches me at Clermont and I played against him in the 1997 European Cup final when he played for Brive and I played for Leicester. I’ll meet up with some old friends and we’re looking forward to it.
“We’ve not had our Test players for two-thirds of the season. I’ve not seen most of my squad. So it’s going to be nice to get them back.
“We should look forward to it. It’s a brilliant game to be involved in.
“I know it’s been a bit shortened because of Covid, but we’ve been to Sale and won, we got a bonus point at home against La Rochelle, we’ve earned the right to be in the last 16.
“So we’re going to go and give it our best shot. We’ve got some guys who have been away with Scotland playing some high-quality rugby, so we expect them to come back and then do it in Paris against Racing. It’s a great experience for us all.”
On Racing 92 having 'too many' galácticos
“I don’t think so. I know Laurent Travers very well, he’s a good coach and they’re well organised. Look, they’ve got some great players but we’ve got a lot of international players too.
“They’re well funded and they’ve got a pretty impressive stadium which probably outshines ours a little bit.
“We’re the poor relations from a financial point of view but the sum of our parts is what we’ve always based ourselves on and we’re a side who have pushed Bordeaux hard, we’ve beaten Montpellier, beaten Toulon.
"We played La Rochelle this season when they were top or second in the Pro14 and just lost in a game that could have gone the other way.
“We know that when we’ve got all our players available and have a bit of preparation time we are more than capable of competing at this level. Now that we’ve got the opportunity, we’ve got to go and do it.”
On Edinburgh's youth development in comparison to Warriors
“We’ve had some guys who have made debuts this year - Rory Darge, Connor Boyle, Jamie Hodgson have come through. Jack Blain is in double figures for appearances, Nathan Chamberlain’s had six appearances for us, Charlie Shiel’s had more time than he’s ever had, Dan Gamble has made his debut as a 19-year-old.
"We’ve got Ben Muncaster coming through as well. We’ve got some young backs - Matt Currie, Harry Paterson and Nathan Sweeney are all working hard and in the pipeline to push on hopefully in the next 12 months. We’ve got lots of guys coming through."
On the temptation to 'chuck in' youngsters at this point in the season
“I’ve not had a lot of players fit and available. We’re still trying to qualify for Europe.
“Damien Hoyland was injured for the best part of four months and he’s come back in, Jack Blain’s playing at the moment. I’m not sure there are young guys to chuck in that we need at the moment.
“We've not chucked the season - we want to be qualifying for Europe. We can still get to third if the cards fall our way and we up our performances.
"It may be that we need to finish fourth to be in a play-off - no-one can actually tell us. Third will guarantee you Europe, fourth might, but it might not.
“We’ve been missing huge chunks of our squad for large parts of the season. All our Test players have played more Test matches than they have club games.”